Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (blue jersey) has 66 goals in 105 regular-season games for the New York Red Bulls. (Photo: Mexsport)
HARRISON, New Jersey -- With the Major League Soccer’s regular season dwindling down to a handful of games, one of the most intriguing battles is taking place between two local rivals for the Golden Boot.
After last weekend's games, New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips and New York City FC forward David Villa are tied for the scoring lead with 21 goals apiece, although the former would be declared scoring champion today because he has more assists (five to three).
Interestingly, Wright-Phillips, who equaled the league season scoring record with 27 goals in 2014, doesn't like to have his name mentioned when the scoring race takes center stage.
"When David Villa scored, what’d he get, two? I was in all dimensions, what the hell man?" Wright-Phillips remarked after he tallied No. 21 in the 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. "I hate to go into games thinking about goals and, unfortunately, this game I went in thinking about goals and I don’t like going in like that. If anyone is watching, keep my name out of the mentions, I just don’t need the drama."
The Red Bulls have experienced plenty of drama this season, bouncing back from a 1W-0D-6L start, ultimately securing a 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal berth and now battling for the Eastern Conference superiority. The Red Bulls, who lead NYC FC on goal difference, have two games remaining in the regular season - at home vs. Columbus on October 16 and at Philadelphia on October 23.
Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch couldn’t contain his enthusiasm about the English forward’s strike against Philadelphia and overall impact on the squad.
"What a great goal, talk about a confident take,” said Marsch. “I mean, he just ran after that. I have the perfect angle for it, and I'm thinking to myself, just nice and easy. He absolutely buries it. His form, his confidence, so much of it stems from his leadership. He's stepped up his leadership in such a big way.
"It's obviously led to him having clarity on the field and confidence. He's been fantastic."