Although 2016 wasn't quite the coming-out party for Bradley Wright-Phillips that he had in 2014 season, it was still one he littered with multiple club and MLS records - and that made it only a matter of time before the Red Bulls' all-time leading scorer got his due. And now he has got it.
On Wednesday, March 29, the New York Red Bulls made clear they would be the team to give BWP his due: a new "multi-year" contract, per an official release from the club. Further, the new contract sees Wright-Phillips return to Designated Player status on the roster.
RBNY sporting director Denis Hamlett spoke glowingly about Wright-Phillips and his value to the club.
We are very pleased to extend Bradley's time in New York... His on-field accomplishments at this club speak for themselves, but that success comes from his dedication and work ethic day in and day out. His character and leadership make him an important part of our group and we look forward to his continued success with the Red Bulls."
Wright-Phillips characteristically chose to deflect attention back to the only personal ambition he ever really seems comfortable talking about: winning titles with RBNY:
I'd like to thank Denis, Jesse (Marsch), and everyone at the club for the opportunity to continue wearing this shirt and playing in front of the best fans in MLS... I am very proud of what has been accomplished in my time here, but my sole focus is on trying to win MLS Cup.
In 2014 Wright-Phillips tied the all-time single season goals record with 27 in a single MLS campaign. The following year, with another 17 goals, he tied the all-time two-year goals mark with 44.
But 2016 was when records really started tumbling for him: His 24 goals that season not only earned him his second Golden Boot in three years, but shattered the Red Bulls' all-time goals mark previously held by Juan Pablo Angel. In addition, his 68 league goals in a three-year span broke the MLS record previously held by Chris Wondolowski. During the campaign he also set a record for the fastest hat-trick from the start of a game in MLS history by scoring three goals in the first 27 minutes against Toronto FC on May 28.
For his strong performance, Wright-Phillips was named to the MLS Best XI and was a finalist for the MLS MVP Award, narrowly losing to NYC's David Villa.
Last year the Red Bulls bought down BWP's contract from the DP position he had held in 2015 and gave that spot to Sacha Kljestan. But the last MLS Players Union salary report suggested Wright-Phillips was still the highest-paid player on the squad: he was the only player listed for RBNY earning more that $700,000 guaranteed for the year. The DP designation is flattering, but ultimately cosmetic. RBNY has shuffled the designations in the past and could yet shuffle them again in future.
But the new contract settles concerns over the fact Wright-Phillips was in the last year of his prior deal with RBNY. And if it was a source of concern to BWP - who presumably had some interest in understanding where he would be living, working, and raising his family for the foreseeable future - it should be no longer. He has a new deal, some sense his career in America at least will continue beyond this season (we cannot overlook the fact the last big new deal RBNY handed out was to Dax McCarty, who played on year of it for the Red Bulls and was then traded to Chicago), and can eliminate another potential distraction from his single-minded ambition to win MLS Cup with RBNY.