HARRISON, N.J. — With the New York Red Bulls and Los Angeles Football Club locked in a stalemate with 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Bradley Wright-Phillips took down a long ball from Marc Rzatkowski with his right foot and took a second touch into the box.
The ball was on the foot of one of Major League Soccer’s best strikers in the biggest moment of the match.
That’s not a surprise. Wright-Phillips has been at the heart of the club’s biggest moments since his arrival midway through the 2013 season.
But the English forward, who was the fastest player in league history to score 100 regular season goals, didn’t go for 101. Instead, he slipped the ball to Danny Royer on his left and the Austrian winger slammed home the winning goal Sunday at Red Bull Arena.
Yes, on the night Wright-Phillips was honored in a post-game ceremony for scoring 100 games, BWP gets the game-winning assist.
“That play says everything,” Royer said. “He has a decent angle to shoot and to score a goal. But after the game he told me he heard me yelling and he even saw me and thought I had a better position so he passed the ball. That’s just great.”
That play speaks to the selflessness Wright-Phillips, the reluctant superstar, has and that few others in his shoes possess.
“It’s perfect,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “It’s better than him scoring … I think it’s really fitting that he puts it in a really good way for Danny, but I think we can also appreciate the running, the pressing, the coming back into the game. I’m watching him sprint down the field when he sees Kaku is out of the spot and he’s just a giver this way.
“Again, in our world here in professional sports, you don’t always see that; the superstar, the guy, the goal scorer, to work and work so much and run so much for the team. It’s a thing of beauty, really.”
Royer put the Red Bulls (14-6-2) in front in the 39th minute when he tapped past LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller while lying on his back. Royer started the scoring sequence with a ball to Kaku, who crossed to Michael Amir Murillo. The fullback sent a first-time ball that took a deflection off Jordan Harvey to Miller, who spilled the ball in front where Royer did the rest.
For a while it seemed that’s how the game between two star-studded sides would end. But on a hot and humid evening, the Red Bulls found that extra push late to get that winner. And Wright-Phillips again showed his humility.
“He’s in a better position than me — maybe I can score but he has a better chance to score,” Wright-Phillips said. “I think it’s the obvious decision.”
While it was a big and important win for the Red Bulls, who moved within four points of Supporters’ Shield-leading Atlanta United, but are now level at two points per game with ATLUND, it was another game where LAFC conceded a late goal that proved decisive.
“Hard-fought game. Difficult conditions,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “I thought we did a good job to get back to 1-1 and really lost the game — we have a real chance now from our end, but we still make some mistakes. Bradley Wright-Phillips started running between Jordan and Laurent [Ciman], and we don’t do a good enough job.”
Those three points were all Wright-Phillips when he arrived at Red Bull Arena. He left with so much more.
“I won’t lie to you, in the car — because I knew something was happening today. I was thinking, imagine if we lose and they are doing all — you know what I mean? And then you’re asking fans to stay behind and clap for a player and you don’t know how you’re going to play that day, so very important,” Wright-Phillips said. “Well done Danny Royer.”
Well done BWP.