December 27, 2016
THE YEAR'S BEST - NO. 4
The great race between Wright-Phillips and Villa
While the Red Bulls and New York City FC jockeyed for Eastern Conference supremacy, there was an intriguing sideshow going on between principles on both teams.
|NYC FC captain and strike David Villa scored 23 goals and captured the MLS MVP in the process.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
It was actually a race, a scoring race between Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips and City captain and forward David Villa.
Never before in Major League Soccer history had two players from competing teams in the same city or region had vied for the Golden Boot.
In the end, BWP won the race to the crown by scoring 24 goals to Villa's 23. To truly appreciate their race, the next two closest rivals were Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco and the Montreal Impact's Ignacio Piatti with 17 goals apiece.
Regardless who took home the trophy, both players' feats with the their heads and feet were significant achievements in their own right.
Wright-Phillips, 31, established a standard for the best three consecutive seasons in the league's 21-year history by scoring an astounding 68 goals during that span. That included a league-record tying 27 goals in 2014 and another 17 in 2015.
"Like I was telling the team before, it isn't everything because I've won it before and the team didn't win the MLS Cup and at the end of it all I had was the Golden Boot but the goals didn't for anything unless you win the MLS Cup," Wright-Phillips said.
The Englishman has scored 69 goals over three seasons for the Red Bulls, making him the franchise's all-time goal-scorer. He also is the only player in MLS history to record multiple seasons with 20 or more goals.
"We are all really excited for Bradley," Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. "It's a huge individual accomplishment, no doubt. He was quick to thank the group in the locker room after because he knows that it takes a group effort. Certainly Bradley has been huge for us this year and comes up with big goals at all moments. He is in a really good way right now and I think our whole group is in a really good way right now. We are looking forward to the possibilities and who our matchup will be to get ready for next weekend."
But please don't cry for the 35-year-old Villa. The 2010 World Cup champion did not go home empty handed as he earned a greater prize as he was named MVP of the league in voting by players, management and coaches. By the way, Villa has enjoyed a pretty decent start to his MLS career himself by striking 40 times for the expansion team.
"Today is one of the biggest days of my career," Villa said. "Two years and a half ago when I decided to come here some people thought maybe I had come here to find a home and retire. I tried every day to show to the people with my body that I come here to be strong and competitive - to show that I want to grow my career and to follow through, to make history.
"This trophy it means a lot to me because for this trophy, the community of players chose me, the coaches and the journalists choose me."
Villa won out over Wright-Phillips and Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljetan, who finished second and third, respectively.
"Its a symbol for me on why I came here. I want to say thank you to a lot of people first of all, I want to thank MLS and to the City Football Group for giving me the opportunity, to let me live this amazing dream.
"Of course everyone working at NYC FC for helping me every day my teammates, the people in the locker room everyone who helps us every day. To Patrick, to all the coaching staff, to Jon Patricof and all of the people who work at the Manhattan office and at Purchase this trophy is for you."
So, what are the odds of this great scoring race duplicating itself again in 2017?
But soccer fans from both teams can only hope for another fantastic finish in the next 12 months.