Bradley Wright-Phillips: “We have a lot of character, we’re a fit team and situations like that seem to suit us.” (Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports)
CINCINNATI — Down two goals and with only 15 minutes remaining in regulation, Bradley Wright-Phillips realized the Red Bulls were going to have to find the resolve to pull off a victory in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup semifinals Tuesday night.
They did, rallying for two goals to equalize and for the game-winner in extratime — by BWP — to defeat FC Cincinnati, 3-2, at Nippert Stadium.
“It felt massive,” said Wright-Phillips, whose two goals led the Red Bulls’ comeback. “When we went two goals down it was going take something special but if there’s one team that can do it. It’s not me being biased, it’s us. We have a lot of character, we’re a fit team and situations like that seem to suit us. As soon as we go a goal down, I don’t like it but sometimes we just turn into a different animal. Today, it was no different.”
Wright-Phillips, who won the league Golden Boot in 2014 and 2016, certainly has turned into a different animal as the season has progressed. He traditionally is a slow starter, so he is only following suit. His 14 MLS goals leads the team.
Asked about why he gets hot in the summer, BWP replied, “I don’t know, I’m not really sure, I’m not sure, but I do know I’m not the greatest starter in a season. Yeah, I can’t even answer that. There is something about this time of the season I seem to do ok in and hopefully it carries on.”
So does head coach Jesse Marsch, who called his English striker a ruthless finisher.
“I’ve learned to try and take the chances I get,” Wright-Phillips said. “I used to squander a lot, I think tonight I squandered a couple not easy chances but I should’ve gotten them on target. Jesse since he’s been here has challenged me to be the guy if you get one chance, score it, if you get three chances score them all. I’m still working on it, as a player I’m enjoying transforming.”
The Red Bulls clinched a berth in the Sept. 20 final at Sporting Kansas City. It will be the franchise’s second time in the Open Cup final, having lost to the Chicago Fire at Giants Stadium in 2003. Since then it has been Open Cup futility.
“I think it’s been a very long time and I read things all the time about New York Red Bulls don’t win trophies or even some of their fans were saying we were going to choke into the semifinals,” Wright-Phillips said. “So it’s just good to get over this hurdle here and prove to people that we are a team that we’re learning and we’re getting better.”
Outside of winning the competition, it didn’t get much better Tuesday night with the Red Bulls overcoming that two-goal deficit late in the match and coming back to win.