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Red Bulls' Wright-Phillips learning to play without Henry

A year after 27-goal MLS season, Red Bulls Wright-Phillips adjusting to life without Henry

Red Bulls' Wright-Phillips learning to play without Henry

HARRISON, N.J. (AP) -- Playing with Thierry Henry turned Bradley Wright-Phillips into the MLS's top goal scorer last season.

The two had chemistry and the result was one of those seasons that will be hard to beat. Wright-Phillips scored league-record tying 27 goals in 32 games and won the MLS's golden boot.

Doing it again might be a lot tougher. Henry, the French international who brought immense talent and recognition to the league, has retired and Wright-Phillips is going to have to go through an adjustment period.

The Red Bulls have revamped their roster and Henry isn't the only one gone. Australian international Tim Cahill is gone along with fellow midfielder Eric Alexander.

In the season opening tie against Sporting Kansas City, Wright-Phillips didn't have a shot.

"I don't have to readjust my game," the 30-year-old Englishman said after the Red Bulls practiced for their home opener against D.C. United on Sunday. "I am always going to play the same way I always have. The players that have come in, I'm trying to learn like I did with Thierry. I learned how he played and I learned to play off him. I'll try to do the same with the new guys."

The additions this season are midfielders Sacha Kljestan and Felipe Martins and striker Mike Grella. But in the 1-1 season-opening draw, the chemistry was lacking up front.

"On the day of the game I put a lot of it down to me," Wright-Phillips said. "I was a bit too eager to get behind. I could have done a little bit better with my runs. It's the first game, I don't really lose my mind after a first game of the season."

If there is a difference this season it's the style of the Red Bulls' play under new coach Jesse Marsch. There is an emphasis on moving the ball quickly with everybody contributing. A lot went through Henry in past seasons.

"For us, it was almost a little unrealistic having a guy like Thierry on the team," Red Bulls captain and midfielder Dax McCarty said. "He was a little of a wild card, a joker. If you are losing or in a bad situation, you could just play him the ball and hope that something magical happened, which more often than not did. That's gone. I think this is a team that can hurt you in numerous ways and that's going to be a big shift this season.

McCarty said the team could have helped Wright-Phillips more in the opening game.

"We didn't create enough chances for Bradley," McCarty said. "I think he will admit he can do a better job making better runs and we have a do a better job of looking for him and finding him when he does make those good runs. That is the thing that is going to make us successful this season.

Wright-Phillips isn't heading into the season thinking: how does he top last year? He has set a goal target that he is not disclosing. If he meets it, he'll set another one.

Whatever he does, Wright-Phillips isn't interested in heading back to England, where he played for Manchester City, Southampton, Plymouth Argyle, Charlton Athletic and Brentford before coming to the Red Bulls in July 2013.

"I don't want to go back to Europe. I've said that several times," Wright-Phillips said. "There were one or two whispers that I heard about but it doesn't interest me. I'm playing for the New York Red Bulls and I love living in New Jersey."

Updated : 2021-07-29 02:22 GMT+08:00