The Columbus Crew made its first major announcement of the offseason in the signing of forward Bradley Wright-Phillips as a free agent. The veteran joins the Black & Gold as a backup and rotation option with starting striker Gyasi Zardes.
As reported by Massive Report last week, interest between Wright-Phillips and the Crew emerged quickly after LAFC declined the forward’s contract option for 2021. Sources tell Massive Report that the Black & Gold view Wright-Phillips as an ideal option to provide depth behind Zardes with his 16-plus years of professional experience that include stints with Manchester City, Southampton and the New York Red Bulls.
“We are thrilled that Bradley has chosen to join Crew SC as we look to build off of our 2020 MLS Cup title and continue to contend for trophies headed into 2021,” Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said. “As one of the most proficient strikers in our League over the last decade, Bradley brings valuable veteran experience to our attacking corps and we look forward to his contributions. We also believe Bradley’s quality character and mentality is an asset to every team he has played for and has played a critical role in all the personal success he’s had in his career.”
A graduate of the Manchester City Academy, Wright-Phillips played nearly 300 games in Europe, including in the English Premier League, before making the move to Major League Soccer and joining the Red Bulls in 2013. In eight seasons in MLS, Wright-Phillips scored 116 goals and managed 34 assists in 213 regular season appearances.
Wright-Phillips won the MLS Golden Boot as the league’s top goal scorer in 2014, recording 27 goals in 32 games, five more than runner-up Dom Dwyer. After registering “only” 17 goals the next season, Wright-Phillips again won the Golden Boot in 2016 with 24 goals scored, edging out David Villa’s 23 finishes.
In both seasons he was MLS’s top goal scorer, Wright-Phillips was also named to the MLS Best XI. The London, England native was also named to the MLS All-Star team in 2014 and 2018.
In 2020, the Crew scored 36 goals in 23 games, tied for eighth-best in MLS. Zardes led all players on the roster in goals scored with 12, tied for second in MLS with the Seattle Sounders’ Raul Ruidiaz and the Chicago Fire’s Robert Beric behind LAFC’s Diego Rossi.
Behind Zardes, the Black & Gold’s next-best scorers were attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan and winger Pedro Santos, who each had six finishes on the year. Backup forwards Fanendo Adi and Krisztian Nemeth, who signed in the summer, scored one goal in 15 games.
Last season with LAFC, Wright-Phillips played in 18 games, making 14 starts, and scored eight goals and registered six assists as the backup to Rossi. Although he will turn 36 early in the 2021 MLS season, Wright-Phillips will add a level of experience and scoring acumen that the Crew has never had in a backup striker.
After winning MLS Cup in 2020, Columbus qualified for the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League, which will begin in February. Sources told Massive Report that Wright-Phillips is an ideal player to lead the line in Champions League games and help the Black & Gold navigate an increased number of contests in the MLS regular season and U.S. Open Cup play.
So far this offseason, the Crew has added two goalkeepers in a trade for veteran Evan Bush and fourth-year professional Eric Dick who is yet to sign a contract after being selected in the second round of the MLS Re-Entry Draft. The Black & Gold are expected to remain active this offseason as they look to build for another championship run in 2021.
The Crew’s current 2021 roster:
Goalkeepers (4): Evan Bush, Jon Kempin, Matt Lampson, Eloy Room
Defenders (8): Harrison Afful, Chris Cadden, Aboubacar Keita, Grant Lillard, Jonathan Mensah, Milton Valenzuela, Josh Williams, Vito Wormgoor
Midfielders (8): Artur, Sebastian Berhalter, Luis Diaz, Derrick Etienne, Jr., Aidan Morris, Darlington Nagbe, Pedro Santos, Lucas Zelarayan
Forwards (3): Miguel Berry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Gyasi Zardes