In the 92nd minute of the second leg of the 2015 MLS Eastern Conference semifinal between the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United, Bradley Wright-Phillips channeled his 2014 form, followed a perfect pass by Gonzalo Veron, let his movement do just enough to take the 'keeper out of the equation, and knocked in the goal that Red Bull Arena had been waiting for: the one that confirmed the Red Bulls would play an Eastern Conference final series for the second year running.
When the highlight reel of BWP's RBNY career is made - put that goal on it.
It is perhaps the quintessential Wright-Phillips goal for the Red Bulls, and the reason he is so good but so often diminished by observers. Veron's pass is very, very good - but Bill Hamid can reach that pass. BWP's movement, tracking close to the ball without touching it, is what seems to create just enough doubt in the 'keeper's mind that he mistimes the interception he absolutely could and should have made. Essentially, BWP is playing chicken with Hamid - daring him to come for the ball, daring him to guess when and how the striker will touch the ball to try to take it away from the 'keeper.
These mind games don't always come off: Hamid won the previous one-on-one he had with BWP in this match. But when they work, they look deceptively easy. Perhaps this is why BWP's exceptional goal scoring record seems so often to be overshadowed by the exceptional assist-making of those fortunate enough to play alongside him for RBNY. Great pass by Veron? Absolutely. But Hamid can get to that pass - he doesn't because he can't quite read BWP's intentions and in the end he is flummoxed by just the suggestion Wright-Phillips might touch the ball out of his reach.
BWP seems not to seek the spotlight (his response, post-match, to commentator Jon Champion comparing his exceptional scoring record for RBNY with that of his father, Ian Wright, for Arsenal: "I wouldn't go that far"). He just keeps finding ways to score, and seems not to be too affected by the fact MLS observers keep finding ways to credit his achievements to those assisting him, or the team's tactics - anything it would seem but admit BWP has been the league's stand-out goal scorer for the past two seasons.
But those ways keep adding up to new club records.
This week's goal against D.C. United was BWP's sixth in eight career MLS Playoff appearances. Six goals isn't a lot, but it is more all-time post-season goals than any player has scored for this club ever before.
From MetroFanatic.com's statistical archive, the top five RBNY playoff goal scorers of all time:
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