New York Red Bulls Need Bradley Wright-Phillips More Than Ever


To be blunt, the New York Red Bulls are slumping. In their last nine matches, the Red Bulls have walked off the pitch winners one time, a 2-1 victory over NYCFC on May 10th. They’ve lost four consecutive matches and recently gave up their season high in goals against the Houston Dynamo in a 4-2 loss on June 5th.

They’ve been losing in all sorts of different ways. Last minute defeats like in their 2-1 loss to Seattle Sounders FC on May 31st and then being dominated for the entire second half the following week in their aforementioned loss against the Dynamo. Even with a week off to regroup before their next game against Vancouver Whitecaps FC this past weekend, Bradley Wright-Phillips had two penalty kicks saved and the Red Bulls played with 10 men from the 11th minute in the game after Sacha Kliestan earned a red card. It wasn’t too long ago when the Red Bulls could boast about being off to their best start in eight years.

All these inventive ways of losing points to a consistency issue that can still be figured out. For example, although heartbreaking at the time, the team can live with losing traveling across the country and losing to quality opponents like first-place Sounders. The Whitecaps are tied with the Sounders in the Western Conference standings with one less game played, so losing 2-1 to one of the best teams in the MLS is something New York can live with.

Losing by two goals to the ninth place Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union, or drawing against the last-place Colorado Rapids are the matches that makes the club scratch their collective heads.

When there’s a consistency issue, it usually trends towards pointing to a leadership issue. The Red Bulls went through a large roster overhaul from last season, losing the likes of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill that were integral parts of leading the Red Bulls to a recent MLS Supporters’ Shield.

It’s not fair to blame one person, but the team’s leadership role fell into the lap of Wright-Phillips whether he likes it or not. He must be the player to remove the negative cloud that is currently hovering over the Red Bulls wherever they go.

Wright-Phillips had a MLS-record tying 27 goals last season and has five through 13 starts this season. Wright-Phillips has not scored since scoring twice in the Red Bulls aforementioned last win on May 10th against NYCFC. He has started in the team’s last five games (played all 90 minutes in four of the five) and has zero goals and one assist.

He’s had the opportunities, such as missing two penalty kicks against Houston (one before the red card that may have altered the result of the entire game) and having six shot attempts against Philadelphia on May 24th. In the last five games, Wright-Phillips has only had zero shots on goal one time.

The team’s problems are larger than one man, but sometimes it only takes one man to pull a team out of a slump. Wright-Phillips needs to make a high-impact play soon to rally the confidence of his teammates around him. There’s plenty of time for the Red Bulls to get into the playoff cut line in the Eastern Conference, and odds are he’ll be the reason for the team’s turnover if it happens.