Fastest Player in MLS History to Record 100 League Goals (158 Matches).
First Player in MLS History to Score 20 or More Goals in Three Different Seasons (2014, 2016, 2018).
First Player in MLS History to Score 15 Goals or More in Five Consecutive Seasons (2014 – 2018).
MLS Golden Boot (2014, 2016).
MLS Best XI (2014, 2016).
AND NOW, THE 2020 COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR.
No one has ever doubted Bradley Wright-Phillips’ past accomplishments, but after he was limited to a two-goal, 24-game 2019 season amidst knee and groin injuries for the New York Red Bulls, suddenly the future of the 34-year-old’s career seemed to hang in the balance.
The Red Bulls appeared to have already moved on, not offering Wright-Phillips a contract, but instead extending a non-playing position as a ‘Thank You’ for his years of service to the club.
“I was mad at everybody,” Wright-Phillips told MLSsoccer.com. “I was mad at the league; I was mad at the Red Bulls. I’m not even saying they did anything wrong, I was just mad. It drove me. Like, watch. Watch what happens when I finally get a club, watch what happens when I’m fit. They’re gonna see.”
Other clubs were wary about his fitness too. He still needed surgery to fix a lingering sports hernia, but that didn’t deter LAFC Co-President and GM John Thorrington from seriously considering him. As Wright-Phillips tells it, LAFC was really the only club that came to him with serious plans for his future, and after he joined them for preseason training, the bond between them was solidified.
“Bradley is one of the most prolific goal scorers in MLS history and the type of player that can be a difference-maker for us,” said Thorrington. “He brings invaluable experience to the group as a proven winner in our league.”
The two-time Golden Boot winner signed with the Club officially on February 14, 2020, but he still needed a couple of months to get his body in proper goal-scoring shape. We all know what happened next. The world was turned on its head with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the hardships caused by the situation, it did allow Wright-Phillips more time to get himself game ready. He ended up being able to get ready, indeed.
After months of a league-wide shutdown, the MLS is Back Tournament got underway in July. Despite missing 2019 MVP and Golden Boot winner Carlos Vela, Thorrington and LAFC head coach Bob Bradley had a pretty good insurance policy in the form of Bradley Wright-Phillips.
He started in the first MIB tournament match against Houston, and it only took 19 minutes for him to get back on the score sheet, registering the 109th goal of his MLS career, and helping the Club to a 3-3 draw.
“It was like going back to school,” Wright-Phillips said. “I was happy I got the start and also happy to get some match fitness. I hadn’t played for a while, and I enjoyed it.”
The goal was no fluke. Wright-Phillips ended up starting and scoring in his first three matches for the Club, becoming the first LAFC player to accomplish that feat. Following Houston, he netted the game winner in LAFC’s 6-2 defeat of rival Galaxy, and another goal in the 2-2 draw against Portland to round out the MIB group stage.
“Early in the season we saw good things and thought he would really fit in well,” LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said. “Once he started to get sharper and fitter; once he started to develop a good understanding with guys like Diego [Rossi] and Brian [Rodríguez], you could see that he could really be an important player for us and we've seen it throughout.”
LAFC ultimately fell to Orlando City in penalty kicks in the MIB Semifinals, and the Club turned its focus to returning to play in home markets. Carlos Vela was set for his return and Adama Diomande was edging closer to being fully match fit, leaving a question to what the role of Wright-Phillips would be moving forward.
But we all know what happened next. Adama Diomande and the Club mutually agreed to part ways on Aug. 13 to allow him to return home to Norway to be with his family in the trying times and Vela was helped off the field in the first game back against the Galaxy with a Grade 2 MCL injury that would render him out of commission for the majority of the season.
Bradley Wright-Phillips was again thrust into the position he has thrived in throughout his career – top goalscoring option.
He returned to the starting lineup and recorded an assist vs. Seattle on Aug. 30 and another goal Sept. 2 in a 5-1 win over San Jose.
“It’s something we spoke about before, we had to bounce back,” Wright-Phillips said after the important victory over San Jose that ended a three-game losing streak. “I think the longer these kinds of runs go on, other teams start smelling blood and we didn’t want to be in that predicament. I think we all banded together as a team and just grinded it out.”
Despite LAFC’s struggle to find consistent form throughout September, Wright-Phillips continued to press on. He added a goal and an assist in the against Portland on Sept. 13, which gave him 113 career MLS regular season goals, just one away from tying LAFC Assistant Coach Ante Razov for sixth on the all-time MLS scoring list.
It only took two more matches for Wright-Phillips to tie, and then pass, his assistant coach, who he credited with his return to form.
“You know where I was at the end of last season,” Wright-Phillips said. “And these guys have given me a lot of life and a hunger to score more goals, so I credit Ante a lot for that. I love it – it is the best decision I’ve made – I’m grateful to everyone involved. Training every day is fun.”
Wright-Phillips continued his run, giving LAFC a major boost with two goals in an historic first half against Vancouver on Sept. 23, helping the Club to the fastest five goals scored from kickoff in MLS history and earning for himself Player of the Week honors.
Wright-Phillips ended the regular season tied for the fifth highest goal tally in MLS with eight and tied for fifth in assists with six in 18 appearances.
In a strange and bizarre year, this iconic player proved to people exactly what he wanted to – do not count out an MLS Legend.