Bradley Wright-Phillips may be a legend, but he’s still got it.
The Los Angeles Football Club forward won 2020 MLS Comeback Player of the Year on Friday, overcoming both the perception he may be unable to contribute at MLS level any longer after being passed by with the New York Red Bulls in 2019, and injuries which limited him last year and the beginning of this year.
The 35-year-old Englishman admitted the award was a surprise but also an honor.
“After my season last year was very frustrating, a tough one to get through, to get Comeback Player of the Year, yes, is a big deal for me,” Wright-Phillips told reporters during a conference call Friday after his award was announced.
After five consecutive seasons in which Wright-Phillips scored no fewer than 17 goals in league play with the Red Bulls, he was moved to a bench role in 2019, scoring just two goals in 24 regular-season appearances. The fastest player in league history to score 100 goals, New York opted to move on from BWP in the offseason, and Wright-Phillips said LAFC was one of the teams that came calling.
“Bob honestly he was honest with me, he told me what he would expect from me, how the players would be, how the coaches and the staff were like. I obviously respected him for what he’s done in the game and he wanted to know how my injury was going and we spoke about that for a bit, but the ideas they had and what I’d seen from last season, the players they’ve obviously got, the talent here. For me it was a no-brainer,” he said.
Wright-Phillips is known for his honesty, and says he’s improved while at LAFC, expressing a wish he was younger so he could play longer for the coaching staff.
“I think what I like here is there’s a lot more responsibility of me not just scoring goals. I’ve had to think more about positioning. How I’ll receive the ball, how I bring other players into the game is something that I haven’t really had to do too much in my career. I’ve always wanted to do more but I’ve mainly been looked at just scoring goals, but here, it requires a lot more. Your football IQ has to be sharp every day and I wish I wasn’t as old as I was so I could have, you know, had a lot of years under Bob [Bradley] and Ante [Razov] and Mike [Sorber] and Kenny [Arena] because these guys know their stuff. It’s fun to train every day.”
Having said that, Wright-Phillips maintains high standards for himself and said he didn’t actually think he had a successful season.
“You know what’s funny? Until I get this award I didn’t feel like every week it was successful,” he explained. “I feel like there’s a lot of times I’ve left kind of unhappy with my performance. I think the numbers are good. It looks good on paper but it’s weird that I think I’ve still got a lot to improve on. I’ve still got so much to improve in this team and I’m trying to do that in the playoffs, in the postseason stage of the season. But yeah, it didn’t really feel like a success all the time is what I’m trying to say. I guess the numbers say different.”
A father of three, Wright-Phillips didn’t just have to worry about his own career, but the needs of his family in joining LAFC. Coming during an unprecedented year, joining the club and playing in a difficult 2020 was tough for BWP and his family.
“Not just on the field, I think everyone in the world dealing with COVID,” he said. “I’ve had to bring my kids, my wife here. We settled into a place that we didn’t plan to, a lot of things have happened, personally off the field and to at least get an award like this for something, you know, I’ve been working hard for offseason my family’s had to sacrifice and it’s good to kind of get a reward at the end. Obviously we want to win MLS Cup you know as a team. But personally, yeah, it’s a nice award to get because a lot’s gone into this year, it’s been tough for everyone.”
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