Shaun Wright-Phillips showed New York Red Bulls fans his Premier League pedigree during Saturday night’s MLS debut, earning a penalty and setting up brother Bradley as his side secured a 3-1 home win over the Philadelphia Union.
Wright-Phillips, who joined the Red Bulls earlier this week after spending a month training with the club, was introduced in the 61st-minute and took just five minutes to make his impact felt, drawing a spot kick for Sacha Kljestan to put the hosts 1-0 up.
Philadelphia grabbed an equaliser with 17 minutes left through striker Sebastian Le Toux but the former Queens Park Rangers winger would help his side re-take the lead moments later, dribbling into the box before crossing for his brother to net his ninth goal of the season.
Fellow substitute Anatole Abang then completed the scoring in stoppage-time, as the Red Bulls moved into second place in the Eastern Conference, having now taken 32 points from 20 games.
Unsurprisingly, though, much of the talk after the match centred around Wright-Phillips’ impact and his brotherly connection with Bradley, who he last played with at Manchester City between 2004 and 2006.
“He tried to set me up when I was on City with him,” Bradley told MLSsoccer.com at the final whistle. “He was being very biased, and I couldn’t finish them. He went mad at me, so today I made sure I concentrated on the cut back and put it in the back of the net.”
The older Wright-Phillips added: “It’s always going to have meaning if you can help your brother achieve his targets, but I think the most meaningful part is that we got three points on the road. Now we just have to carry on to the next game.”
Wright-Phillips, 33, spent the past four seasons at QPR, racking up 72 total appearances, while adding two goals and eight assists.
However, the experienced midfielder endured a miserable 2014-15 campaign at Loftus Road before being released this summer, making just four Premier League cameos for a total of 129 minutes as the Hoops finished bottom of the table.
Later linking up with the Red Bulls after arriving in New York for his brother’s wedding earlier this summer, the club made a strong push to sign him after seeing his qualities in training and, with their persistence now rewarded, head coach Jesse Marsch will be hoping he can reproduce some of the form that earned him 36 England caps in his prime.
He has certainly got off to a good start and, if he can go on to enjoy the same kind of success as Bradley – who bagged 27 goals in 2014 to win the Golden Boot and equal the league’s single-season scoring record, then fans might not have to wait much longer for a first-ever MLS Cup title.