HARRISON, N.J. — It should have been a joyous moment for New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips. He played a part in both goals of a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC that kept his club in Supporters’ Shield contention ahead of next Sunday’s home showdown with first-place Atlanta United.
Instead, an angry Wright-Phillips tried to hold his tongue when asked about the 86th-minute yellow card Saturday night at Red Bull Arena that will keep him from playing in his team’s “biggest game in years” because of yellow card accumulation.
“I’m gutted about it,” Wright-Phillips said. “There’s so much I want to say, but I know what these guys are like. If I tell the truth, they’ll just suspend me for another week. But it’s unacceptable. What I said wasn’t that bad. It was just a swear word in it and [Nick Hagglund] got my arm. Then you get booked, and I miss the biggest game of the season next week. It’s ridiculous.”
Protesting the lack of a call when Hagglund appeared to pull Wright-Phillips’ arm, the forward cursed at assistant referee Brian Poeschel, who initially waved his finger before raising his flag when Wright-Phillips continued to complain, leading to the yellow card issued by referee Kevin Stott.
“It’s ridiculous, man. It’s too big. We’re men.” Wright-Phillips said. “If you can’t take a swear word and what really happened then you’re in the wrong sport, man. That’s ridiculous.”
“If someone said that to me, I would be like ‘sorry, I missed it,’” Wright-Phillips added. “[Instead] it’s a yellow card. This guy was having a nightmare all game.”
In response to a pool reporter inquiry, Stott said Wright-Phillips’ yellow card for dissent was because of multiple f-bombs directed at Poeschel.
“He disputed that there was a foul that was not called that he suffered,” Stott said in a written statement. “Multiple use of the word “F—“ directed at the assistant referee in an aggressive manner.”
Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said what he heard on the sideline “didn’t sound that bad.”
“Of course, things are said all the time,” Armas said. “But Bradley Wright-Phillips is not the guy who crosses the line … no one respects the game more and shows it the way he does and in games we don’t think he gets a lot of leeway and benefit of the doubt at times. That goes for fouls and we think it goes for even tonight. It didn’t sound that bad what he said. Is his leash that short? It’s disappointing.”
Armas went on to say that Wright-Phillips doesn’t get calls he deserves or the “benefit of the doubt in these moments,” and that’s been the case “for four straight years.”
“There’s probably no better forward over the course of that time … and he’s the most honest one of them all,” Armas said. “He doesn’t cheat the game ever. Can the referee manage it in a way, the guy is frustrated, I understand it, can I hold the yellow?”
Wright-Phillips said it’s not in his nature to dive or take flops, even though Red Bulls managers Jesse Marsch and Armas said he should go down easier.
“I can’t. It’s not in me to do that,” Wright-Phillips said. “I don’t have to go down or make a meal out of it to get a foul. It’s ridiculous. These guys don’t understand football. I’m sorry.”
Knowing he was a card away from a suspension, Wright-Phillips said he was told by Red Bulls staff to be careful “these last three weeks.”
“Sometimes you have enough,” he said. “I can’t keep getting decisions against me and just shut up because I want to win. If you let those things slide and don’t care, to me that’s not wanting to win. I want to win the game and I want it to be played well.”
Wright-Phillips said he’s heard similar complaints from other players in the league he speaks to about the officiating. It’s one improvement the league hasn’t made during his time in the league, according to Wright-Phillips.
“In my career I haven’t been suspended much. I haven’t even had a red card or anything,” Wright-Phillips said. “I want to win and a lot of things frustrate me. I think this league has improved massively since I got here, but the people that officiate the games I don’t think they have.”
Listen to Bradley Wright-Phillips post-match comments below