Brian White may have led the line most of the season, and winger Josh Sims could make his first start for the New York Red Bulls Saturday against the Colorado Rapids (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and on DAZN in Canada). But for RBNY coach Chris Armas, striker Bradley Wright-Phillips remains a crucial part of his team's postseason goals.
With White nursing an ankle injury, Wright-Phillips made his first start since April in Saturday's 2-1 loss in the New York Derby. And as Armas' squad looks for more consistency down the stretch, he suggested he'll still lean on the club's all-time leading scorer.
"We only see it going like this for Brad: up," Armas told reporters, making a ramping-up hand motion. "The fitter he gets, the sharper he gets, the regular training sessions that have come, so we know that he’s a big piece around here. He, along with just a couple of guys around here, understand the biggest games and what the biggest moments require. So he’s our guy."
A combination of an early-season knee injury and White's good form limited Wright-Phillips' minutes through much of the summer. He hasn't scored since coming off the bench to poach a dramatic late equalizer at Atlanta United on July 7.
Meanwhile, Sims may start after making his MLS debut last Saturday, a 25-minute cameo in the Derby defeat. That experience, combined with his discussions with Armas and training sessions since his arrival, have convinced the Southampton man he's on loan to the right club.
"That was a big thing for me, to make sure that the team is actually right for me, and I believe it is," Sims said. "The first day here I had a meeting with Chris. We sat down and had a good chat about what would be best for me and what positions. And he showed me tips on how the boys play. I think it’s a good thing for me and I think it’s right."
Despite Wright-Phillips' ups and downs, with 47 goals through 28 matches the Red Bulls aren't all that far off the pace from the 62 they scored en route to winning the 2018 Supporters' Shield. It's the 42 they've conceded — nine more than last season — that are more troubling.
With only one trophy left to compete for this year, goalkeeper Luis Robles says the defense is where things need to change.
"We had a really good talk today, just the defenders and the whole unit about just not meeting the standard that we set last year," Robles said Wednesday, "that we need to get back to what makes us good. That competitive spirit, winning our 1-on-1 battles, really taking things personal. And if we can do that for the last six games, then I think it puts us in a great opportunity to really do something special this year."