The New York Red Bulls got their third straight victory on Saturday night, a 3-0 win over Toronto FC at Red Bull Arena, and Bradley Wright-Phillips provided all the scoring.
Wright-Phillips got the hat trick in this one, and had two last Saturday against NYC FC, giving him five in his last two games. He now has eight goals on the season, tying him with NYC FC’s David Villa and Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco for the MLS lead.
The Red Bulls got on the board early, as Wright-Phillips headed in a free kick from Sacha Kljestan in the fourth minute.
The Red Bulls controlled play from thereafter in the early going, and Toronto suffered a major blow when Giovinco had to leave in the 22nd minute with an undisclosed injury.
Soon after, the Red Bulls took advantage, as Kljestan set up Wright-Phillips with a pass down the left side, and Wright-Phillips split two Toronto defenders to get his second goal of the night in the 25th minute.
Just two minutes later, Felipe was at the top of the box, and he sent a lofting pass to the right side to Mike Grella, who did an amazing job corralling it, and he got it to Wright-Phillips, who buried it to make it 3-0 Red Bulls.
Wright-Phillips set a new MLS record for fastest three goals to start a game. Dwayne DeRosario was the previous record holder with three goals in the opening 31 minutes of a match.
Wright-Phillips said of the slow start to the season and finding himself at the top of the scoring charts, “Is that so? It was tough in the beginning, we weren’t hitting great form. I don’t want to get excited really, we’ve hit a nice run of form and it’s good, you know? It was important after the NYCFC game to try and emulate that work rate and clean sheet and be clinical and we did it, it was good.”
On if the goals seem bigger because of his previous form, Wright-Phillips said, “Not really, I feel like today it did. I felt like everything I was hitting went in. A game ago against New York City it felt different, I didn’t feel like I would get a goal in that game and I thought it was going to be one of those games where you just fight. For some reason they’re going in, let’s not get too happy though.”
BWP’s fourth career hat trick sets a new franchise record, and ties him for second-most career hat tricks in MLS history. Stern John and Diego Serna hold the MLS record with five career hat tricks each.
Wright-Phillips passed Thierry Henry on the club’s all-time scoring list with his second of the night, and finished with 53 regular season goals, five behind Juan Pablo Angel’s record. He also tied Juan Pablo Angel’s record for the most multi-goal games in club history, with his 12th in a Red Bulls shirt.
Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said of Wright-Phillips, “Everyone wanted to talk so much about how Brad wasn’t scoring in the beginning of the year and where was he at, and all I just kept saying is our belief in him is at the highest level. And that’s not just me talking, that’s our entire group.
“We see him every day. We see all the quality he has, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets himself going. When he does, then the goals start to come in bunches. So here he is now. He’s leading the league in scoring. Right? I mean, that says it all.”
Marsch said of getting an early goal, “It now makes them have to think about coming out more, and they can’t just sit back and stay compact and then make it hard on us. Then obviously when Giovinco goes out, that also throws out their game plan.”
“So the combination of their early lead and then losing Giovinco meant that the game was then going to be played at our terms at even a higher level. Obviously the red card changed everything. So then we had to now fight our way through the second half specifically.
“But what I loved as much as Bradley scoring the three goals and getting the win was some of the efforts in the back to block shots, flying around to do whatever it take to now make sure that we weren’t going to give up a goal and we were going to ensure another shutout. I think you’d start with Ronald and Aurelien, and talk about the effort that they put in. And Aurelien had a major impact on the team not just from a playing perspective, but from a mentality perspective. I think he’s really given confidence because he’s so aggressive, and he takes so much pride in his job and making sure that we don’t give up goals. So he’s been fantastic.
“It’s great to see our back line coming together, and this will be important for us moving forward,” said Marsch.
The Red Bulls have come all the way back from their 1-6 start, as they have five wins, one draw, and one loss in their last seven. They are now 6-1-7 with 19 points and in second place in the Eastern Conference.
Wright-Phillips said of what has changed in the last seven games, “Just a little bit of luck, I said that at the beginning of the season. I was getting chances and some of them were bad finishes and some of them were getting lucky. You get these little streaks and they go and in two weeks you guys could be asking me what’s gone wrong. It’s just how it goes, you know? For us strikers especially.”
On what has been the biggest change for the team, Wright-Phillips said, “The defense. They’re on fire right now, and the midfield, they were unbelievable today. What’s different, I feel like the midfield has been amazing and when they play well we win games. We’ve got Dax, Felipe, and Sacha, and when they’re in there they’re hard for any team to deal with. When they’re in there we don’t concede too many goals and we score a lot more.”
Marsch said of the state of the team right now, “Yeah, obviously very different than the beginning of the year. Truly feel like we’ve put that behind us now, and we’ve made a great push in the last seven games, getting a lot of good performances. Starting to really feel and look like us. So I think we use the hard times to make us better. So obviously very happy with the last couple months.”
When the Red Bulls’ game ended, they were in a three-way tie at the top of the Eastern Conference with Philadelphia and Montreal. Later on Saturday night, Philadelphia earned a point in Colorado to get to 20 points, with the Red Bulls and Montreal tied for second with 19.
Marsch said of the better results and being near the top the East at the break for international play, “I told them for right now we’re at least in first place the East, which it’s remarkable, remarkable. Given how rough our start was. It felt like a long period of time like where we were just in a dark moment. But we continue to try to reinforce important things, and continue to try to push and know that we were going to use that to make us better and to see now where we’re at, it’s very validating. But we have to use the time to get some rest, but continue to push it always.”
Luis Robles earned his third straight shutout, as he turned away Toronto’s 19 shots, and made a big save on a Will Johnson penalty kick in the 47th minute.
Marsch said of Robles’ play, “I think Luis wanted the shut out in a big, big way. Obviously now they encroach and he gets another chance at it, and I think the second one they encroach too. But what a great save.
“At that point it’s a little bit of a mind game and Luis wins it, and he makes a great save. So it’s great to see Luis being rewarded, because even when we gave up, I don’t know, 17 goals, 20 goals, where are we? 17, 20? I honestly don’t think Luis was at fault in one of them. So that’s just phenomenal. It almost doesn’t make sense, right?
“So for him to now reward himself more with shutouts and great performances and obviously a big save, I think it’s good for the team, but it’s also great for him,” said Marsch.
The Red Bulls hit a bit of adversity towards the end of the first half, as Gonzalo Veron was sent off for a red card in the 43rd minute, as he stopped on a Toronto player’s foot while making a play on the ball. This meant the Red Bulls had to play the remainder of the game short-handed.
Marsch said of the Veron red card, “Yeah, it’s frustrating. Those fouls are pretty consistent with what’s been called, so I don’t think I can really point at that too much. Sometimes when guys from other leagues come to our league they have to understand we’ve gone through that with Ronald a little bit. And now Gonzalo’s going to have to know those tackles are going to get red cards almost every time. I know he got all ball, but the refs have been instructed to throw guys out of the game for that.
“It’s consistent with what we’ve seen. And for Gonzalo, yeah, it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for him; it’s frustrating for us. I feel like he was struggling a little bit with fitness, and that probably led to him breaking down in some decision-making and doing that. So that’s very uncharacteristic like. We don’t see that in training at all. It was just a weird moment and a moment that cost him and cost us.
Marsch then gathered his team together on the field for a discussion at the start of halftime, and he said of that, “I just wanted to say to them that, you know, to have the right mentality in the second half. Like we’re down a man, but we can still do everything that was required to win that game. And if we were a little bit better on the ball, we still felt like we could maintain possession even a man down. Just wanted to make sure their heads were straight going into halftime.”
Marsch said of the better defensive play of late, “Yeah, I think, like I said, we’re going to use the break for some rest. Then we’re also going to build up a little bit of fitness. And then we’ve got a big stretch coming up where we have game after game after game after game. That includes Open Cup. So now it’s going to be partly keep the momentum going, but it’s also going to require us to call on some of our depth.
“In that, we’ll get Damien Perrinelle back in training, so that will be a big plus. So now you start to feel like the momentum, which was building against us, a lot of the beginning of the year is now working toward us.
“So it’s key to get some rest and now push forward. But it’s key to get some rest, but also very key that coming out of the break that we’re stronger and better than ever,” said Marsch.