Bradley Wright-Phillips has had to deal with various struggles during his career such as disciplinary issues and serious injuries. The New York Red Bulls striker has put that behind him with his 20th MLS goal of the season against the Montreal Impact.
No other Red Bulls player has scored as many as Wright-Phillips in one season, a record the Englishman broke on Saturday. He's now leading the Golden Boot race by four goals.
While in England, Wright-Phillips had some problems off the pitch. Both he and former Southampton teammate Nathan Dyer were charged with burglary in 2008. Dyer was sentenced, while his accomplice was acquitted. A year later, Wright-Phillips was accused of assaulting a Saints supporter.
Wright-Phillips' problems extended to the pitch. He started just once in the Premier League with his previous club, Manchester City. In three seasons with Southampton in the Championship, he scored 23 goals in 112 league appearances.
Wright-Phillips didn't fare much better at Plymouth Argyle after being released by the Saints. He struggled with injury, but when he did play he was a lethal forward.
In 2010/11, Wright-Phillips had 13 goals in 17 games in League One but was sold to Charlton a few weeks later. It looked like the Man City youth product wasn't going to soar to new heights.
All that changed when the Red Bulls signed him last summer. He contributed two goals in nine appearances in the regular season and playoffs during his shortened first campaign in MLS.
This year was an unexpected turnaround for Wright-Phillips. He became the first Englishman to score a hat trick in the league's history.
He didn't stop there. His 18 goals eventually led to a selection to the MLS All-Star team to face Bayern Munich in Portland. Wright-Phillips scored the eventual winner in a 2-1 victory for the All-Stars. That performance led to the forward being linked to a future England call-up, per Keith Hickey of Goal.com.
Wright-Phillips has denied those claims outright, but his campaign has been extraordinary. He has never had this kind of individual success in his professional career, so he's proven that it's possible to be a late bloomer.
His ability to make runs and get into position in order to finish chances is unmatched. Wright-Phillips also has a lot of pace, which goes unnoticed at times.
The Red Bulls sit precariously in the MLS standings. New York is in fifth place but lie only a point above the red line for the final playoff spot. If it wasn't for Wright-Phillips' exploits, the club would be in a much lower position.
Regardless of what happens to the Red Bulls this year, Wright-Phillips' season should go on record as being exceptional.
Wright-Phillips has proven that sometimes all a player needs to excel is a fresh start and some confidence from his team. The Englishman certainly received that from New York, and everyone was surprised and thrilled by his sudden breakout.
Maybe other clubs will look at troubled players with talent and perhaps take a chance that the individual can turn it around with discipline and a change of scenery. Once trust is gained, encouragement does go a long way.
Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke has taken this philosophy and applied it to his star striker. It's paying dividends that could continue into the postseason.
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