Red Bulls sign Wright-Phillips, brother of team's top scorer
HARRISON, N.J. (AP) As fate would have it, the wedding of Bradley and Leanne Wright-Phillips turned out to be a blessing for the New York Red Bulls organization.
Bradley Wright-Phillips, the team's leading goal scorer a year ago with 27 and again so far this year with eight, got married in June in New Jersey. His older brother, Shaun, a standout soccer player in his own right, attended the wedding and was set to head back to their native England.
However, while the elder brother - who was a free agent and weighing offers from all over the world - was in New Jersey, he was asked to train with Bradley and the Red Bulls. Shaun Wright-Phillips was not going to return to the Queens Park Rangers, the club he saw action with in four games last season, so the Red Bulls suddenly became an option.
''Everything just seemed to fall into place,'' Wright-Phillips said. ''The more I trained, the more likely it looked like it was going to happen. I didn't expect it. It just did.''
Tuesday afternoon, the Wright-Phillips brothers were officially reunited, as the 33-year-old native of London signed a contract with the Red Bulls, joining his 30-year-old brother on the club.
The elder Wright-Phillips declared himself fit and ready to go Saturday when the Red Bulls face the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park, but team officials would not disclose whether he will see action immediately.
It marks the 10th time in MLS history that a pair of brothers is on the same roster. It's the second time in the history of the MetroStars/Red Bulls franchise. Martin and Fausto Klinger played together for the MetroStars in 2001.
It's the second time the Wright-Phillips brothers have played on the same team. In 2004, both were members of Manchester City in the English Premier League. The elder Wright-Phillips was a veteran of the English Premier League, having played for the Queens Park Rangers, Manchester City and Chelsea, seeing action in 299 Premier League matches and scoring 31 goals.
Wright-Phillips also earned 36 caps with England's national team from 2004 through 2010, scoring six goals.
The two brothers insisted there was no such thing as a sibling rivalry.
''He's the older brother, so he was always better than me,'' Bradley Wright-Phillips said at the press conference announcing his brother's signing. ''There wasn't too much competition.''
''We were only on the same team once, so we really never had a rivalry,'' Shaun Wright-Phillips said. ''I think we used to talk about whoever scored the most goals on Sunday. Sometimes, I needed to let him know who was boss.''
''When I was younger, he used to bully me a little,'' Bradley Wright-Phillips said. ''He was bigger than me then. I bet he understands now.''
The younger brother was overjoyed about his older brother joining the Red Bulls.
''It's exciting,'' Bradley Wright-Phillips said. ''I'm not going to lie. Growing up, it was always a dream to play alongside my brother on the same team. Now, this is like a dream come true for us.''
Shaun Wright-Phillips said there will be a different feeling come Saturday when they finally get to play together.
''It's going to be weird,'' he said. ''I know he's going to start reaching into my bag for things when we get changed.''
Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch was elated to have the brothers together.
''Having them play together is a great story, because they're both great players,'' Marsch said. ''When you see Shaun train and the amount of work he puts in, you know he's the kind of player you want. It became obvious to us that he was the right guy for us. I was always impressed with the quality he showed, but now I see he does all the little things to make a team successful. Shaun was the perfect addition to this club.''
The Red Bulls own an 8-6-5 record, good for 29 points, and are in third place in the MLS Eastern Conference standings.