BWP Embraces Veteran Role

When Bradley Wright-Phillips arrived in MLS back in 2013, he was one of the younger players on a New York Red Bulls squad that was veteran-laden.

But it is a new era for the Red Bulls, leaving Wright-Phillips as one of the senior citizens of the squad at the ripe old age of 32.

The Red Bulls might just be the youngest team in MLS this year and almost certainly have the youngest squad they’ve ever assembled, even dating back to their nascent days as the NY/NJ MetroStars in 1996. When Wright-Phillips came to this team, he was the unknown trying to fit in with the likes of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. It was a different time in the league’s development and the Red Bulls, much like the rest of MLS, were filled with older (and pricey) European or South American players.

About to enter his sixth year in the league, BWP is now the proven commodity on a team that is young and still maturing. Considering that most of this team’s influential players are in their late teens or early 20s and Wright-Phillips is starting to feel a little old.

[Watch Red Bulls-Timbers March 10 on MSG 2 & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

Head coach Jesse Marsch even talked with Wright-Phillips about developing him as a leader on this team.

“Sheez. I didn’t think about it [but] I’m the oldest outfield player,” Wright-Phillips told MSGNetworks.com. “I’m going to have to start setting an example. I like it though, I’m embracing the challenge … It’s good. When I came here, I was a younger guy learning from some of the older players. It is good.

“I try to lead by the example. I’m not one to be overly talkative. When I do talk, sometimes it comes across as a bit negative on the field even though I don’t mean it like that. For me, I’ve been working on positive things, especially with a younger squad – you don’t want to send out the wrong messages.

“Since Jesse’s been here, he’s challenged me to be a bigger leader. I’m setting out to do it the best I can.”

Then again, he did score 17 goals in league play last year and 23 goals across all competitions. With that track record, it looks likely that the Red Bulls won’t be forcing the old man off their roster anytime soon.

In other words, it’s not time to turn the “Run BWP” moniker into “Powerwalk BWP.” Not close.

For the only man in MLS history to twice top 20 goals in the regular season, Wright-Phillips has very little left to do or accomplish individually in this league. Twice having won the Supporters’ Shield for the best regular-season record in MLS, the Red Bulls still have yet to win MLS Cup.

They did make MLS Cup in 2008 before losing to the Columbus Crew. The team went on a run to the finals of the U.S. Open Cup last year, but lost at Sporting Kansas City.

Wright-Phillips is hoping that this year, the young Red Bulls can finally be the team to put an MLS Cup in their trophy case alongside the Supporters Shield as well as the La Manga Cup and the Emirates Cup.

“It’s something that is on my list and not just for me, obviously,” Wright-Phillips said. “I think this club needs a big trophy, for the players it has had here and have never had a big trophy. I want to be a part of it. Bring it here.”

[Watch Red Bulls-Timbers March 10 on MSG 2 & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]