Mike Petke (pictured as a Red Bull) on BWP: “”The one thing I’ve loved most about Bradley is not his goal-scoring. It’s the things that he does for his team.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
In Bradley Wright-Phillips first two-plus years with the Red Bulls, Mike Petke had a front-row seat to the English striker’s scoring heroics as the team’s head coach.
When asked the best way to stop BWP Thursday, Petke simply replied, “Kick him.”
Of course, he was only kidding.
The Real Salt Lake head coach then got serious about one of the most lethal forwards in Major League Soccer history.
“When Bradley came in, we signed him because we saw something special in him,” Petke said during a conference call. “We knew his background and we knew he just needed an environment to produce him and he did. And where he’s gone from there, it’s awesome. It’s awesome to watch him play.
“The one thing I’ve loved most about Bradley is not his goal-scoring. It’s the things that he does for his team. Very unselfish, away from the ball. Making tireless runs, where he gets the ball maybe 30-40 percent of the time but he’s opening up something for someone else. His workrate defending, not being that typical superstar mentality who is scoring a ton of goals and that’s all he has to do. He really buys into helping the entire team and he’s a great guy in the locker room.”
In his first full season with the Red Bulls in 2013, which also was Petke’s debut season as a head coach, Wright-Phillips tied an MLS record by totaling 27 goals. He added 17 in 2014.
“I really enjoyed my time with him and it’s great to see that he’s still killing it,” Petke added.
While scouting the Red Bulls for Saturday night’s encounter against his RSL side, Petke watch Wright-Phillips stellar performance as playmaker, rather than a scoring star. He set up all three goals in New York’s 3-1 second-leg win over Tijuana, which clinched a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.
That was after BWP scored both Red Bulls goals in a 2-0 first-leg victory last week and came off the bench to tally once in the 4-0 demolition of the Portland Timbers Saturday night.
“Yeah, it was great,” Petke said. “Listen, I’m very happy and proud of Bradley. To watch his performance the other night, those are the things I’m talking about, not just his goal-scoring but his ability — and I know that he’s not a huge assist man — his reading of the game, his tireless work, his putting other players in good situations. If they are in a better one, giving them the ball instead of keeping it himself and trying it himself and trying to score, score, score. He’s going to be do everything he can for the team. His workrate and his vision, and he’s lethal around the goal. It was great the other night seeing him chipping in some assists and setting up some goals.”