Bradley Wright-Phillips, the New York Red Bulls (10-8-11, 41 pts.) and MLS scoring leader, is closing in on the MLS regular season record for most goals. The Englishman, son of famed England international Ian Wright, scored a hat trick to lead his team to a 4-1 win over Western Conference leader Seattle Sounders in front of a sellout crowd of 25,000 fans at Red Bull Arena last Saturday night.
The record of 27 goals in an MLS season was set by African-America Roy Lassiter while playing for the Tampa Rowdies back in 1996. In 2012, American international Chris Wondowlowski tied the record, and now, with Wright-Phillips getting his 22nd, 23rd and 24th goals last Saturday night, three goals shy of the record with five games still to play, MLS may have a new all-time single season scoring record holder at season’s end.
Wright-Phillips, now fifth on the all-time single-season scoring chart, scored his third hat trick of the season, which is more than the current record holders during their record season, began his goal spree just 30 seconds into the game when he latched onto a rebounded shot in the penalty area from midfielder Ambroise Oyongo, which Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei failed to hold. The 1-0 lead lasted through half time as New York dominated Seattle with excellent ball movement. The Sounders had one decent shot in the first half, which came in the 11th minute, when former Red Bull Kenny Cooper shot well over the goal in an effort that should have better executed.
Wright-Phillips continued his scoring in the second half as he extended the Red Bulls lead to 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 54th minute, after fellow Englishman and midfield Lloyd Sam was tripped in the goal area. The 2-0 lead lasted two minutes: full back and Costa Rican international Roy Miller overlapped on the left side and sent a cross to Wright-Phillips, who slammed the ball into the roof of the goal for the commanding 3-0 lead. Seattle, which is the only team to clinch a possible spot, inserted regular starters, U.S. international Clint Dempsey and Nigerian international Obafemi Martins, with 30 minutes still to play; Dempsey made use of the first opportunity he got and pulled a goal back in the 62nd minute for his 12th goal of the season.
Towards the end, there was still some excitement. Substitute Tim Cahill, who performed well for Australia in the last World Cup, scored his second goal of the season and at the other end, as the Sounders tried to score again, Red Bulls goal keeper Luis Robles made back-to-back, stellar saves in a tense moment when he blocked a Marco Papa shot and had to save the rebounded header from Dempsey from point-blank range. The Red Bulls next will take on the in-form Los Angeles Galaxy, now in second place in the West and in the playoffs, when they travel to StubHub Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 28 for an 8:30 p.m. start.
In other MLS games last weekend, host Toronto FC stayed in the playoff hunt with a big win over the Vancouver Whitecaps at BMO Field. Goals from Jackson, Luke Moore and Gilberto ensured the win. Earlier in the week, the Whitecaps capitulated to the Portland Timbers when Fernando Adi scored a double and Diego Valeri tallied for the winner. The playoff-bound Los Angeles Galaxy topped FC Dallas, 2-1, as Alan Gordon got the winner in Los Angeles. FC Dallas led, 1-0, on a Blas Perez goal early in the second half, but Irish international Robbie Keane tied the score soon after.
The Chicago Fire and DC United played to a 3-3 draw; the 16th tie, by Chicago, is an MLS season record. The Philadelphia Union and the Houston also tied in a scoreless affair at PPL Park near Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Columbus Crew knocked off the New England Revolution, 1-0, in Columbus on a goal by Federico Higuain. The Montreal Impact topped the San Jose Earthquakes, 2-0, on goals from Jack McInerney and Billy Duka, at Saputo Stadium in Montreal; and Real Salt Lake defeated the Colorado Rapids, 5-0; José Mari scored first, for Colorado, but Joao Plata, Javier Morales, Chris Schuler and Carlos Salcedo spoiled the night for the Rapids. Joe Nasco scored an own goal.