LOS ANGELES — New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips isn’t close to thinking about retirement, but he’s already received an honor typically reserved for retired players in the United States.
The Red Bulls in August announced Phillips’ No. 99 jersey would be retired after his playing days are done. He’s still a bit taken aback by it.
“That’s some Michael Jordan stuff,” Wright-Phillips said. “It’s not what I’m used to. It was kind of embarrassing. I was taken back by it. I’m honored, but it’s kind of humbling. I feel weird even speaking about it. It’s weird. I’m flattered, but it’s definitely not anything I’m used to. Still doesn’t feel real.”
With a laugh, he added, “I think when I’m done, I’m going to tell them just carry on using the jersey.”
Wright-Phillips, 33, said he’s not thinking about what he’ll do when he’s retired and no one else can wear the No. 99 jersey with the Red Bulls.
“I’ll think about that when I get to 33 or something,” he said with a smile.
Wright-Phillips has scored 106 league goals in six seasons with the Red Bulls. He reached 100 career goals in July.
“I think there’s always been goal scorers, since I got here,” he said, referencing Chris Wondolowski from the San Jose Earthquakes. “There’s always been guys that can score goals, but I think there’s more now and the competition is a lot fiercer.”
He added the players surrounding the goal scorers have gotten stronger, too.
“Just all around, teams are way more difficult to play against. A lot more dangerous players on each team. I think when I first came here, you’d get one or two [designated players] and even then it was tough, the teams will still good. I think now, they’re picking up gems from South America or just anywhere. Gems are coming out of college or whatever or homegrown talent — Red Bull had a few. There’s studs on every team now.”