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Bradley Wright-Phillips: “I know people think, ‘Oh, he’s past it’ ... I’m excited to get over this”

Two days before his final match as a Red Bulls player, BWP shared his excitement about, once again, proving the naysayers wrong.

MLS: MLS All-Star Training
In one year, he went from team MVP to expendable, but BWP is nowhere near throwing in the towel.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

OaM: It’s been a tough season for you, obviously, and even more, a tough year. Towards the end of 2018, the goal-scoring started to slow down a little bit for you. When you reflect, when does it feel like things started to slow down?

BWP: Nah, nah. You know what’s weird about that actually? Because towards the end of last year – it’s like, when you play at Red Bull, you’re in like a, you’re in like a zone; it’s like, the team, the system, how you play, it’s almost like you don’t really think about your stats.

And I remember seeing when I scored the first game of the season, someone was like, ‘You haven’t scored in like 10 games or longer.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ Like, I didn’t even – you know what I mean? I didn’t even know.

And I was like, ‘Shit.’ So, towards the end of last season, nah, I wasn’t thinking [about not scoring]. I was probably just bummed that we didn’t do well in the playoffs. But then, yeah, this season, when I started feeling my groin, like beginning of the season –

OaM: Did you start feeling it before –

BWP: Yeah, before I came out injured, I was playing with it a bit. It was just a little niggling pain that wouldn’t go away.

OaM: Did it start all the way at the beginning of the season?

BWP: I’d say like, after a couple Champions League games. Yeah, quite early in the season. It was something I thought you just get through, you know what I mean? It was a little pain, maybe I’m not stretching well enough. Game by game, it was getting a little worse.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire
Wright-Phillips winces and reaches for his groin during a March 30 match against the Chicago Fire.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

But then, yeah, when I really thought to myself, I literally can’t sprint in channels, I can’t beat anyone for pace, I can’t shoot hard, I was like, ‘I need to shut this down.’ But, I didn’t think it would take me this long. Like, even now, I feel it sometimes if I don’t stretch well.

So, it’s been a tough one this season, because I always think I’m really close, but I’m really not that close to being what I want to be, like, how I want to feel. But, it’s good. I think, this season, to me, I’ve started to look at it as just helping out. Like, wherever I can help out. I came to that decision a few months back, where I was like, wherever I can help out.

OaM: When you think about next season, have you put any thought into it? I mean, with the way things are going with your groin, in terms of what your future could be?

BWP: Nah, with next season, I just want to be fit. I think, with a bit of rest and strengthening, this’ll be good. When I first done this they said, ideally, you need to just literally take eight weeks off. And, obviously I’m not going to take eight weeks off; I’m going to play, I’m going to train.

So, yeah, the groin doesn’t bother me. I know I just need time to get it right. But, as far as playing and stuff, I just want to get fit and go from there.

OaM: Getting back to the topic of what slowed you down at the end of last year, you’ve spoken about how important Jesse Marsch was to your career. I know he was a guy that instilled a lot of confidence in you. Could it possibly be that the absence of a guy like that – who impacted you so much – affected you down the stretch?

BWP: Nah, not at all. I’ve been with Jesse and there’s been a time, I think with Jesse, where I didn’t score for like seven games in a row; it was probably my most at the time.

It’s nothing to do with that. I just think, this season, I’ve never been fully-fit. I’ve never been fully-fit. I was trying to go and I just, I couldn’t.

OaM: One of the things I think about when I think about you is how you were so injury-free. It’s almost like –

BWP: Bound to happen, it was bound to happen. The more I thought about it, it’s like, you can’t – who goes six years or whatever without getting an injury, playing that many games? Bound to get something. It’s just annoying.

It’s annoying that it’s come, because I’m getting older and that’s what it looks like, you know? And it could be, but, in my mind, I’m just like, ‘I can’t wait to get back fit.’ Because I know people probably think, ‘Oh, he’s past it.’ You know, I see shit [that’s said]. So, I’m excited to get over this.

OaM: To show that it’s not just age, that it’s the injury?

BWP: And don’t forget, don’t forget, just last season I had 20 goals, and like nine assists or something. You don’t just lose that.

OaM: People see 20 and then two goals and then they think, ‘He’s falling off a cliff.’ But, they don’t take into account the injury.

BWP: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. Those kinds of things excite me.

OaM: You know, I was watching a video from last year, before the Philly home game in the regular season, and you had this pregame speech. And one of the things I noticed at the beginning of last season was how you and Luis [Robles] both took on vocal leadership roles in the locker room.

Being out of the team for two months, and then on the bench and not playing all that much, have you been able to be that type of leader this year, and, if so, how much harder has it been?

BWP: Yeah, I feel like it’s more just, like, quiet words with people. It wouldn’t be talking in the team talk, you know? Because, I’m a person, I do those things off of emotion. And when I’m starting, I’ve got a lot of emotion in me. You know, it’s like a, it’s a different feeling. I want everyone to feel how I’m feeling, so I might say something.

When you’re starting off the bench, it’s a bit different. It’s more of just a friendly word if someone’s going out, like, one of the young strikers or something like that. So, I’m still talking, but just not as how I would be if I was starting.