Bradley Wright-Phillips (pictured) struck for his 20th goal of the 2014 Major League Soccer season on August 23, 2014, a new New York Red Bulls single-season record. (Photos: Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images)
HARRISON, New Jersey -- Mike Petke admitted he never saw it coming.
The New York Red Bulls head coach never thought Bradley Wright-Phillips would turn into a scoring terror.
"Early this year in the first two weeks, three weeks, of pre-season, if you had told me that he’d be on 20 goals with 10 games left, I would’ve laughed at you, to be honest with you," he said.
Petke might not have been laughing Saturday night after yet another record-breaking performance by his English striker in the Red Bulls' 4-2 victory over the Montreal Impact at Red Bull Arena. Wright-Phillips tallied twice to break Juan Pablo Angel's club record of 19 goals in a season.
But there have been other times to laugh.
"We laugh about it now because even in pre-season in shooting practice, Bradley couldn’t score," Petke commented. "It got worse and worse for him but he’s worked incredibly hard [and] he’s a phenomenal person. I’m extremely happy to have him on my team. He’s willing to learn and he wants to learn and he does anything I’ve asked of him."
It was not known whether Wright-Phillips will start for the Red Bulls in their CONCACAF Champions League Group 3 opener against visiting CD FAS on Tuesday night.
The 29-year-old is in the midst of one of the great MLS seasons. He is within striking distance of the league's all-time season scoring mark of 27 goals, set by Roy Lassiter of the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny and the San Jose Eathquakes’ Chris Wondolowski.
His positioning and movement have been keys to his success as the forward finds himself still atop the Major League Soccer leader board with 20 goals, the coach said.
"The thing that goes unnoticed about Bradley are the little things,” Petke finished. “His positioning, the way he moves, him cleaning up his first touch, which six, seven, eight months ago it was lacking [with] him. He’s scored 20 goals but he’s really cleaned up a lot of his game and he’s really stepped up and become a phenomenal player for us."