HANOVER, N.J. – In some way, shape or form, New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch has been involved in MLS in some capacity, dating back to the league’s inception in 1996 when he was a player for D.C. United. So when he was asked on Thursday to compare star forward Bradley Wright-Phillips to the all-time greats in the league, Marsch was uniquely positioned to answer.
Whether as an MLS original or a veteran with Chivas USA, an assistant coach with the United States national team, an MLS analyst or a head coach with the Montreal Impact or here with the Red Bulls, Marsch has been around some of the great scorers in the league. This past Sunday, Wright-Phillips scored a brace to give him goal No. 20 on the season, making him the first player in league history to twice score 20 goals in a season.
When asked about Wright-Phillips, Marsch candidly said that “I don’t really know there’s a book on how to deal with him. That’s what makes him so unique.”
Then he was asked to compare his striker to an all-time great. The name he chose was just not any name.
It was the name of the player for whom the MLS MVP Award was named after.
“He’s got bits of Landon Donovan in him but he’s stronger and bigger so he doesn’t just operate in space, he can also compete in tight spaces,” Marsch said.
“I think the thing for me that we’ve talked a lot about since I’ve been here, I didn’t add a lot to his abilities and qualities and the soccer package but for me, we’ve talked a lot about the mentality about what being a lethal striker is all about. I think now we see him, there aren’t moments that slip by him at any time in the game. And not just goal scoring opportunities but tactics and leadership now, he’s so locked-in and now what he wants to be and what he can be. It makes him better and better.”
Wright-Phillips, despite tying the league single-season scoring record in 2014 with 27 goals, has never won the MVP award. He is considered a frontrunner this year along with teammate Sacha Kljestan.