Bradley Wright-Phillips wasn’t even thinking about scoring goals. The New York Red Bulls forward has been off the field so long he just wanted to accumulate enough minutes not to be sucking wind.
But coach Chris Armas said Wright-Phillips’ late equalizer in a wild 3-3 draw against Atlanta United was a “great moment for Brad,” and, he hopes, perhaps a harbinger for the future with the Hudson River Derby against New York City FC on the horizon this Sunday at Red Bull Arena.
“For any player coming off an injury, especially goal scorers, you want to play well, but you want to score goals and be sharp in that part of the field,” Armas said. “Brad’s one that doesn’t always get a ton of chances so to see him do that — we’ve seen that so, so many times — so for his confidence, for the team, It was a big moment.”
It was Wright-Phillips’ second goal of the season. His first came in a 4-1 win over San Jose March 16.
“Because I’ve been out for quite a while I haven’t really been thinking of goals. It’s more just trying to play longer than 15 minutes without being really tired,” Wright-Phillips said. “I think in Atlanta I felt good, after a couple of sprints I felt like I wasn’t unfit.”
In his first game back from a groin injury that sidelined him for two months, Wright-Phillips played 23 minutes off the bench in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire. After, he admitted feeling exhausted, like it was the first day of preseason.
He played another 17 minutes as a substitute in a 4-0 loss in Houston and the 13 minutes in Atlanta Sunday.
“I feel good, like every day getting stronger,” Wright-Phillips said.
Following a full week of training without limitation, is Wright-Phillips finally ready for his first start since late April?
“He’s definitely a consideration,” Armas said. “For what he lacks in complete fitness for 90 minutes he makes up with intelligence, the sharpness he does have, the fitness he has built, the adrenaline and energy naturally maybe you can go to another level.”
And then there’s Wright-Phillips’ remarkable strike rate against NYCFC. He’s scored 12 goals in 12 all-time regular season meetings.
“It’s obviously a derby match so in the morning I’m excited, a little nervous,” Wright-Phillips said. “I wouldn’t say that has anything to do with it, but I think I’ve just been fortunate for the players I’ve had around me and the teams we’ve put out, it just seemed to fall my way. The ball just seems to drop in the right place when we play them.”
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