HANOVER, N.J. — There was a little surprise over the New York Red Bulls MLS All-Star selections, which were announced Friday afternoon.
It’s not that forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has been selected for the second time and debutant defenders Aaron Long and Michael Amir Murillo don’t deserve to be a part of the team that faces Juventus at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 1.
It’s just that its rare for the team to get that many players picked.
“That’s amazing for us to have three,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “Typically we usually get one.”
It is the first time since 2014 the Red Bulls are sending multiple players to the MLS All-Star Game when Wright-Phillips, Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill were part of the team to face Bayern Munich. Wright-Phillips scored in the 51st minute in that 2-1 victory at Providence Park.
Outside of host Atlanta United, who had five players selected, no team has more players on the roster than the Red Bulls.
“I think Amir has emerged as a really good player in this league and he’s done well for us this year,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said after training Friday. “Bradley, it’s almost a continuing acknowledgement to how great he’s been for five years, but it’s another year where he’s second on the leaderboard in scoring, no surprise there.
“Aaron has put in a lot of really good work over the last three years here and it’s nice to see him finally acknowledged for how he’s playing and how he’s doing. This will be one of many accolades that will come his way in the near future. We’re really happy for him.”
“That’s a reflection on how the team is playing and how individuals are playing,” Marsch said.
Interestingly, all three of the Red Bulls selections weren’t voted in by the fans, like Atlanta’s five. Wright-Phillips was a pick of MLS commissioner Don Garber, while Long and Murillo were selected by Atlanta coach Tata Martino, who will coach the MLS All-Stars.
“There’s definitely some conspiracy theories we have going in the locker room, but for the most its one one of those things where the fan vote is out of our control and then of course whatever coach is coaching the team is out of our control,” Robles said.
A two-time MLS Golden Boot winner, Wright-Phillips is second in the league with 11 goals and has five assists. His goal and assist production has been unmatched up to this point, owning a 1.37 goals-plus-assists per 90 minutes this season, which is the top mark in the league for players with at least 750 minutes played and no penalty kick goals.
“It lets you know you’ve had a decent season so far,” Wright-Phillips said of his selection. “If I’m being honest, I’m more happy for Aaron and Amir. I think they deserve it this season.”
Partnering with Parker in the center of the Red Bulls defense, Long has two goals and has logged the most minutes of any field player, playing 1,203 of the possible 1,350 minutes.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamt of,” Long said. “Most young American kids in this league dream of playing a top team in Europe and there’s not a lot of opportunities to do that. Getting called to this All-Star game and getting to play against a great side like Juve, a historical side for Italy is big-time for sure.”
Murillo, who along with central defender Fidel Escobar, played for Panama at the FIFA World Cup, has one goal and two assists on the season and is part of a defense that is tied with Sporting Kansas City for fewest goals conceded at 16.
“I’m really happy Brad is getting his due praise, just because he’s been doing it the last five years,” Robles said. “Of course, Amir and A-Lo, their development over the last couple of years has been amazing and they’re a huge reason why our team is leading the league in goals against.”