Bradley Wright-Phillips on why he does so well against NYCFC: “I honestly don’t have a clue, not a clue.” (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
NEW YORK — He might say he hates the Major League Soccer team that calls Yankee Stadium home.
Yet, you might say that Bradley Wright-Phillips loves New York — City FC, that is.
How else can you explain the striker’s production against the Red Bulls’ archrivals?
Eight goals in seven games.
“I don’t know,” Wright-Phillips said on MLS Rivalry Week media day Tuesday. “Because it’s a derby I think it gives you the extra will to run the extra yard. Just not to get beat on that day. On the day, don’t lose any battles. It just might carry me over that extra yard. I’m not really sure. What do you think it is?”
No one answered him.
“I honestly don’t have a clue, not a clue,” he added.
But he certainly has a clue as to what he thinks about City.
BWP did not utter any four-letter words, but he let his opinions be known.
Asked what came to mind when some mentioned NYCFC to him, Wright-Phillips replied, “Honestly? Hate. I don’t really like them that much. They were put there for that reason. I think we were supposed to hate each other. From the first season, they have been there I have not liked them. when we played them in the games, it weighs a little. I don’t know what you guys call it over here, but people are having little digs at each other and it’s a hostile atmosphere on the field.”
As a former Manchester City player, the English forward knew had to hate another famed soccer team in that western England city (ironically, Man City owns NYCFC).
“I was always brought up not to like Man United,” he said. “And to this day I don’t like Man United. I hope my children don’t like NYCFC. As soon as they came in the league we knew that’s our rival. We have to beat them no matter what.”
Saturday’s Hudson River Derby at Red Bull Arena will feature two of MLS’ top strikers who finished one-two in the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards.
On one end of the pitch will be battling and racing one David Villa, who has accrued 10 goals and six assists in 15 appearances. Villa finished one goal behind Wright-Phillips, but was voted league MVP.
On other end will be sprinting Wright-Phillips, who has tallied eight goals in 16 matches. BWP won his second MLS goal-scoring championship last year with 24 goals.
“He’s one of the best strikers not only in the league at the moment, but in history,” Villa said. “His numbers are big for him so much. He has scored many goal. One year he scored , last year 24. Of course, he is our rival because he plays for Red Bulls. He’s amazing. He works a lot for the club. It is always happy for me to have a healthy rivalry in this situation.”
Two quality strikers who have made life uneasy for opposing goalkeepers the past several seasons. But Wright-Phillips will remind you not to mention his name in the same sentence as Villa.
No hate involved, only respect.
When a writer mentioned how much credit the Spanish international striker has received, BWP brushed it off like getting rid of a central defender on his back.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “He’s David Villa. All the credit he gets he deserves. He’s a world-class striker. He’s won the World Cup, Champions League. Let me say this now: I don’t want to be mentioned in the same breath as him. He’s a different beast. … It’s a little bit too much for me.”
Wright-Phillips might hate NYCFC, but he does admire Villa.
“Just his hunger and appetite still for the game,” he said. “He came over here and I didn’t think he’d be too interested, if I am being honest. He came over and shut everyone up. [People] called this a retirement league, just a league where you come to get paid. He deserves a lot of credit for that because he doesn’t have to.
“Enough about David Villa. I’m a Red Bull player.”