LAFC: Bradley Wright-Phillips deserves Comeback Player of the Year

Columbus Crew. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Columbus Crew. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Bradley Wright-Phillips was named the MLS Comeback Player of the Year.

When Los Angeles FC acquired Bradley Wright-Phillips in February it was unclear what impact he would have. The 2019 Major League Soccer season was his lowest goal-scoring season by far as Wright-Phillips had struggled to find the back of the net on a consistent basis with two goals and four assists in 24 appearances.

His 2019 totals were far below previous season totals which included seasons of 27 and 24 goals. With that being said, there was optimism that he could turn things around and prove 2019 was just an anomaly in his MLS career. Having won the MLS Golden Boot twice in his career, he was a player who was still believed to possess an ability to score goals on a consistent basis.

MLS is Back success

The MLS is Back tournament ended up being the moment where Wright-Phillips displayed he still has what it takes to be an impactful striker in the league. In the group stage, he scored in every single match for LAFC and helped guide them to a place in the knockout round. Without Carlos Vela in the lineup, Wright-Phillips stepped in to provide a veteran presence offensively. He excelled with LAFC’s fast-paced attack and was often in the right place at the right time to score the goals they needed.

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By signing Wright-Phillips LAFC added to their depth at striker. It appeared at the time of his signing he would be utilized as an occasion starter along with being a go-to substitute off the bench.

However, following the MLS is Back Tournament he would eventually become the main striker on the squad when Adama Diomande left the club in August. With the departure of Diomande, Wright-Phillips was the clear leader for LAFC at the position.

Goals continued in the regular season

The goals would continue to come for Wright-Phillips when the regular season resumed. He registered five goals and six assists in his remaining 15 appearances of the regular season.

This included a two-goal performance against the Vancouver Whitecaps and a goal and an assist against Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers. All three of those matches ended in victories for LAFC. Only two of the nine matches that Wright-Phillips either scored or assisted in during the regular season ended in defeats for LAFC.

Compared to previous seasons, Wright-Phillips had one of his best seasons in MLS when it came to the statistical category of goals per 90 minutes. According to Football Reference, during the 2020 season, he averaged 0.67 goals per 90 minutes played.

That was the fourth-highest average of his MLS career and the fifth-highest of his entire professional career. That average was well above last season when he scored 0.16 goals per 90 minutes played. Those numbers tell the story of what a turnaround season it was.

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Overall, Wright-Phillip’s performance in 2020 exceeded the expectations that the 35-year-old striker had been given. After a difficult 2019 campaign, he turned things around in a short amount of time and helped give LAFC another offensive weapon. The Englishman still has what it takes to call himself one of the best strikers in MLS. There’s no question he deserved to be named the Comeback Player of the Year.