Entering its 25th season, MLS has seen 11 players reach the 100-goal milestone in their careers. Bradley Wright-Phillips is a member of that elite group. But last season, Wright-Phillips scored just twice. He joined LAFC this offseason to prove 2019 was just a blip.
"Last season, there’s a lot of talk of me being over the hill," Wright-Phillips said in his first media availability with LAFC. "And I’m just laughing."
The striker signed with LAFC as a free agent. His deal was made official days after Wright-Phillips posted a twist on the iconic LAFC cap-tilt.
"As soon as I heard LAFC were interested, it was a no-brainer," Wright-Phillips said.
"They’re the best. Again, I’m not just saying that. But you look at last year’s form, the way they played, the players they have, it’s easy to see. I’m a player right now with the season I had last season with a lot to prove. It makes it a little bit easier coming here."
A two-time MLS Golden Boot winner, Wright-Phillips joins with 2019 Golden Boot winner and MLS MVP Carlos Vela in LAFC's attack. After signing with the Black & Gold, it was announced LAFC fans would have to wait a little while longer though before seeing the two potent attackers link up at Banc of California Stadium. Wright-Phillips underwent sports hernia surgery that will keep him out of the start of the season.
Despite the wait, LAFC's newest weapon feels surgery will aid him in returning to the player we're used to seeing in MLS.
"Last season was just a blip. It was a lot of injuries. It was a lot of not really understanding the injury. Different suggestions from a lot of different people is confusing for me and I think for others too," Wright-Phillips said. "In offseason, while it got a little better – I had done a lot of work in strengthening. Then I had the minor surgery and already I’m ahead of where I think I should be. I’m walking. I can jog. I feel good. I feel strong. I just can’t wait to get out there and score some goals."
Wright-Phillips joins an LAFC team that scored goals for fun last season. LAFC tied the MLS mark for goals scored in a season and obliterated the former goal-differential record. But there were also times LAFC lacked that one goal to put them over the top, whether it was in knockout matches like the defeat at home to the Portland Timbers in the 2019 Open Cup quarterfinals and the 3-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference finals. Wright-Phillips has been brought in to provide that extra bit of prowess.
"We're excited to add Bradley. Obviously, a proven goal scorer. Excellent guy and really good in the group," LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. "He was here for a few days and everybody got a great sense of what he's all about in terms of how he trains and how he mixes with his teammates every day. So, we still are excited to add an experienced No. 9 that we know is a real threat around the goal."
Turning 35 at the start of the season, Wright-Phillips isn't shy about the work necessary to be a part of Bradley's plans in 2020. He's been brought in to leave a mark on the scoresheet but Wright-Phillips relishes helping the squad in other ways on the pitch as well.
"I hate just being known as a goal scorer. It’s something that annoys me. I’ve always thought there’s a lot more to my game than just tapping the ball in," Wright-Phillips said. "That’s what people see but anyone that has played with me knows that I try. I pride myself in bringing a little bit more than just scoring goals. I’m not afraid of the hard work. I like when we lose the ball and we have to get it right back. That’s something that’s been drilled in me for the last six years. I have no problems with that."
That work will be made a bit easier by the LAFC Supporters. Wright-Phillips got a chance to see for himself while up in the stands during a preseason match against Toronto FC. The Englishman was astonished by the volume at Banc of California Stadium, both in decibels and numbers.
"I think I asked random people around the stadium, 'why is everyone not at work?' I couldn’t understand that at 12 o’clock on Wednesday, why they aren’t at work. It’s crazy but it’s nice to see," Wright-Phillips said. "I think you can only play well with support like that. You can only work hard with support like that. It was an eye-opener. That was nice to see. Well done to you fans. That’s amazing."
LAFC starts its season on Tuesday with a Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 match against Liga MX leaders Club Léon. a member of the NY Red Bulls side that reached the semifinals of the tournament in 2018, Wright-Phillips likely won't take part in the competition unless LAFC reaches the quarterfinal round starting March 10. But the striker had some advice for his new teammates.
"Block out the noise," Wright-Phillips said. "Over here, the media, it’s a lot about do you have enough rest? Is it unfair that it’s preseason for you and they are already in their season? LAFC is a great team. We – I can say 'we' now – we are a good team. You go there with no excuses and win the game because you can. Or try and win the game because you can. And if you don’t, you’ve got a second leg. But just go there with no doubts.
"It’s a good team but so are we. There’s no excuses."