Derek Jeter. Carmelo Anthony. Eli Manning. Those are just three of the biggest names of the year in New York City sports.
While the big three are in a category together, it’s the sport of soccer that is including someone completely hidden.
The name that still isn’t all too familiar is Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Yes, I did a double take, too, when hearing his name the first time. Who is he?
While he’s not getting the exposure at the level of Jeter, Anthony or Manning, Phillips is putting together one of the most historic seasons in the MLS history for the New York Red Bulls, who are in the midst of a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals in the MLS.
He is a household name across the pond in England, where he competed in 82 matches as a part of the Football League Championship, scoring 31 times from 2011-13 before getting loaned by Brentford for 15 games, scoring five goals for them to finish off the season before coming to the U.S.
With 30 combined goals between the regular season and the playoffs, Phillips, who won the Golden Boot, an award given annually to the top scorer in the MLS, tied the regular season total with 27 for the Red Bulls. Phillips is three behind Tampa Bay’s Roy Lassiter's record of 33 combined goals in 1996.
Coming from England, Phillips appeared in nine games and scored two goals for New York in his first appearance in 2013. The 29-year old showed some signs that he could do something, but the explosive campaign has come as a surprise, but a quiet one at that.
While Phillips has drawn soccer headlines around the world in the MLS, it is a testament of the role that soccer plays in the United States as to why he hasn’t received more coverage.
TV ratings are up 51 percent from last year, but that doesn’t say much compared to the following that the NFL and NBA gets. In week eight, the NFL alone had 8.5 million people watching a game that started at 9 a.m. in London. TNT and ESPN drew at least two million viewers per game in their basketball tip-off week.
Hiding in the Mount Rushmore of New York sports faces somewhere is Phillips, and as he nears history that would make his season one of the greatest by an MLS player ever, it would only be fitting to call this man, an unknown to many, and call him the city’s sports hidden face. Phillips and the New York Red Bulls will get underway on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in D.C. as the postseason rolls along.
John Fanta can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @John_Fanta.