Brian White ran off the field arms outstretched. He raced to the line of bench players warming up behind the visitors goal. The bench players included regular starters Aaron Long, Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra, and Bradley Wright-Phillips. White leapt into the group, elated after scoring his first goal in Major League Soccer.
White’s rapid rise through the Red Bull organization is a mixture of dedication and natural talent. If this should be the first of many, the fifteen thousand fans in attendance Wednesday night witnessed an historic event.
Brian White steps into the spotlight
“Honestly, it’s a dream come true,” said White in the locker room following the match. “This is the level I’ve been dreaming of reaching and to score on my first start in front of my friends and family, I couldn’t picture a better night – especially getting three points at the end, too.”
“He’s got a knack,” said Red Bulls coach Chris Armas after the match. “He just has a knack. Guys like him, guys like Wright-Phillips, these guys know how to feel the movements, sniff the plays out around the goal.”
White’s scoring exploits during his time at the New York Red Bulls U-23 PDL team are well known. After the Red Bulls picked White as the 16th overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, it seemed certain that he would spend the season proving himself at the USL level. It didn’t take him long.
White transitioned to life as a pro seamlessly. While he did not keep up the scoring rate he displayed in PDL, it was clear that White’s best attribute was his ability to find himself in the right place at the right time. His instinct. Strikers can get by without that instinct, but to maintain form over long periods becomes difficult. It’s a trait that White shares with another Red Bull striker.
“It’s about consistency, looking like us, scoring, and then when you look at Bradley [Wright-Phillips], we talked about all the little things that Brad does,” said Armas. “We talked about him running for the team, chasing, pressing. Brian is cramping at the end, and he’s still running and fighting and giving everything. Does it do it justice to make a comparison between Brad and Brian? I think when you talk about their qualities and that they’re givers to the team and they both know how to score goals, yes, Brian has got a lot to catch up to the Bulls tally, but the reason he’s with us is because he does all those things that Brian is going to do.”
The comparison is apt. Both players carry themselves in a similar manner. If White is looking to emulate Wright-Phillips success, adopting his nose to the grindstone, humble attitude is a good place to start.
“Yeah, you know, it’s a different level than USL,” said White. “It’s a different level than PDL. You just come in and try and play your game, not get overwhelmed by you playing in the MLS now. I just tried to do what I do and I think I did pretty well.”
Atlanta United FC’s Josef Martinez referred to himself as the king after breaking the MLS single season goal scoring record. Wright-Phillips spoke about the goals he missed throughout his career during a ceremony honoring his recent accomplishment of reaching the 100 goal milestone in MLS. Martinez basks in the spotlight, while Wright-Phillips prefers to share the spotlight and put the team first. Brian White seems to prefer the latter.
“Brian White, he’s making saves in USL, he’s scoring goals in USL, now he’s scoring in MLS,” said Tyler Adams after Wednesday’s win. “So it’s amazing for him to go out and do what he did and as a striker he does a lot of the dirty work that goes unnoticed. Obviously everyone remembers the goal, but he helped our team defend tonight”
Chris Armas agreed with Adams. The goal was important to the match, but White’s work all around proved important to the victory.
“Look at the first half, especially early on, he’s holding, jumping, keeping things alive,” said Armas. “Rest and attack, we say, then come back into the game, and he runs well in the box. That’s what you can see. We’re not predicting anything about his future, but he wasn’t here tonight getting a start because we had no other options.”
For now, White will wait in the wings for his next opportunity. The Red Bulls no longer lack depth should Wright-Phillips miss time, and that comes as a major relief for Denis Hamlett and Chris Armas. But is White really ready for the starring role? Does Armas think that White can be THE guy?
“Going forward, is he going to be the guy? I think that the proof will be in the pudding.”
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography