After the pressure Bradley Wright-Phillips has been under this season, burdened with scoring for the underachieving New York Red Bulls, last week should provide some answer as to whether he is up to the task. The English forward scored four goals, including a hat trick in a 4-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday.
Perhaps his best goal came three days later in Columbus, when he took down Lloyd Sam’s cross with the inside of his right foot and swiveled his hips to fire off the far post and in. It would hold up as the game-tying goal, giving New York a coveted point on the road.
But behind every great forward is an excellent provider, which is what Thierry Henry was for Wright-Phillips. Henry has always had a propensity to drift from the Red Bulls’ front line, but he seems to finally have a grasp on how to be a playmaker.
Especially in the game against Houston, Henry provided multiple perfectly weighted passes to create several opportunities. He ended that game with a goal and two assists (he also drew New York’s penalty that resulted in Wright-Phillips’ hat-trick clincher, if you choose to count it as a third). The enganche-esque role he played Wednesday perfectly utilized his excellent vision and poise on the ball.
Obafemi Martins in Seattle has also turned into a solid set-up man, working in the shadows behind Clint Dempsey. Dempsey has the league lead with eight goals, scoring again on Saturday, and Martins is tied with Sam and Shea Salinas as Major League Soccer’s top assist man.
However, goalscorers get the glory. Had Henry played as well in his second game of the week as he did in the first, he might have won it, but on the back of four goals, Wright-Phillips is the easy and obvious choice for Player of the Week.
As for Week 8's Best XI:
Planet Fútbol MLS Best XI — Week 8
• Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls): Robles followed some good saves in midweek against Houston with a big performance in Columbus to earn his team a point on the road.
• Chris Wingert (Real Salt Lake): Always a threat on the overlap, Wingert played an important part of RSL’s first goal by staying high and wide and combining with Luke Mulholland and Ned Grabavoy.
• Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City): Despite the way the game ended for Kansas City, Besler held strong defensively for 90 minutes and provided multiple attacking opportunities with his long throws.
• Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes): Goodson completed 90 percent of his passes on Saturday, complementing center-back partner Víctor Bernárdez’s more hard-hitting style well.
• Kosuke Kimura (New York Red Bulls): Kimura has good positional sense defensively, combined with a consistent desire to maraud forward in the attack.
• Patrice Bernier (Montreal Impact): The Quebec native anchored Montreal’s defensive performance with a bulldog presence in front of the back line.
• Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls): After a long career as a forward, Henry has learned how to be a playmaker and provide for his teammates, really grabbing control of New York’s 4-0 win over Houston on Wednesday.
• Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders): Involvement in three more goals on Saturday should lock up MLS’s Player of the Month award for Dempsey.
• Fabián Espíndola (D.C. United): Espíndola scored twice and added an assist in a 25-minute span against FC Dallas.
• Bradley Wright-Phillips: B.W.P. scored four goals in two games, including a hat trick against Houston and the game-tying goal in Columbus. • Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders): Martins has been a perfect partner for Dempsey this season, and he snuck in a goal of his own on Saturday to cap a romp over the Rapids.