Few positions in the game grab fans’ attention quite like a talented forward. The New York Red Bulls have certainly seen immense skill for the front-line over the years. The focal points of the attack and often spirited leaders of a squad, strikers are at the heart of the team’s success.
New York Red Bulls: Top five forwards in club history
Local products have been able to shine, with Staten Island’s John Wolyniec providing a spark up front during several stints with New York throughout his MLS career. Current head coach of the New York Red Bulls II in USL, Wolyniec scored 36 goals across all competitions for the club.
Both developing their skills growing up in New Jersey, Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo made an impact with the Red Bulls when they were still teenagers. Altidore made the jump to Europe in 2008 at Villarreal, while Agudelo found himself traded to Chivas USA in 2012.
A veteran of two FIFA World Cups with Colombia, Adolfo Valencia was an immediate force of nature in the final third for the Metrostars when he arrived from Greek side PAOK FC. He scored 21 goals for New York during the 2000 campaign.
Often seeing time in the midfield as well as at forward, Mike Magee was drafted by the Metrostars in 2003 and spent six seasons with the franchise. He would find significant success after being traded to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2009, lifting two MLS Cups with his new Western Conference team.
The current decade saw two productive strikers for the Red Bulls in Kenny Cooper and Luke Rodgers, as both helped to lead New York into the postseason. Unfortunately, each would only play one season at Red Bull Arena.
Acquiring marquee talent at the position can of course be risky as well. After an impressive European career, Youri Djorkaeff signed with the Metrostars in 2005. A fantastic first season was mired in controversy the following year, with the Frenchman’s commitment being questioned as he neared retirement.
5) Giovanni Savarese (1996-1998)
The Metrostars needed an efficient forward for their inaugural season in 1996, and they received just that from Giovanni Savarese. A teammate of current manager Chris Armas at the Long Island Rough Riders prior to the MLS player draft, the Venezuelan international scored the club’s first-ever goal in the opening match against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Savarese would lead the team in scoring that year with 14 goals.
A ferocious competitor with an excellent touch on the ball, Savarese could create chances all on his own if necessary. His coaching career has been stellar as well, now leading the Portland Timbers following several title-winning campaigns with the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League.
Fans were disappointed when he was traded to the New England Revolution ahead of the 1999 MLS season, but Giovanni Savarese was able to set the standard for future Metrostars forwards right from the beginning.
4) Clint Mathis (2000-2003, 2007)
Injuries can take their toll on a player’s production, and that was the case in some respects for Clint Mathis. When he joined the Metrostars in 2000, goals were arriving in bunches, along with an attitude that would not back down from any challenge.
A knee injury in the 2001 season slowed the Georgia native down a bit, and he would depart New York for Europe in 2004. Mathis also starred on the international stage, scoring a group-stage goal for the USMNT versus South Korea at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
He would return to New York briefly in 2007. Mathis ranks fourth all-time in Red Bulls history with 45 goals.
3) Juan Pablo Ángel (2007-2010)
When the designated player rule was introduced by Major League Soccer in 2007, clubs were looking for star power that could catapult a team to success. The Red Bulls made that happen by adding Juan Pablo Ángel that year.
The Colombian international made an instant impact on the pitch, helping to guide New York to the playoffs in his first two years. Ángel also scored two goals during the squad’s unlikely run to the 2008 MLS Cup final against Columbus.
With excellent instincts in the final third, Ángel was a consistent threat to the opposition during his time with the Red Bulls. He would sign with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2011, and ranks second in franchise history with 62 goals.
2) Thierry Henry (2010-2014)
After a glittering career in Europe with Arsenal and Barcelona, New York signed Thierry Henry in the summer of 2010. He would go on to be one of the greatest leaders in Red Bull history.
The club made the MLS Cup Playoffs in each of his five seasons at Red Bull Arena. His efforts were a major part of delivering New York’s first piece of silverware in October of 2013. Down 1-0 to the Chicago Fire in a match that they needed to win in order to clinch the Supporters’ Shield, Henry’s stunning strike was the first goal in a 5-2 victory.
From his Olimpico against Columbus, to his bicycle kick versus Montreal, Henry always seemed to be sending an adrenaline rush to supporters with his magnificent abilities. In terms of strategy, he also was a master at putting others in scoring position. The French legend is third all-time in goals scored (52), and second in assists (49) in team history.
1) Bradley Wright-Phillips (2013-present)
Not many expected much from Bradley Wright-Phillips when he signed with New York after a trial in 2013. But the former Manchester City striker kept battling against the opposition, and has become an undisputed club legend.
His first full season in 2014 saw him net 27 goals, equaling a league record at the time. With sharp movements and intelligent runs, Wright-Phillips has smashed scoring expectations beyond belief.
As of this writing, BWP is New York’s all-time leader in goals. BWP has scored 120 goals across all competitions, and is second only to Luis Robles with 202 appearances. Wright-Phillips and Red Bull fans hope to add an MLS Cup trophy before his time with the team is up.
Bradley Wright-Phillips is a tireless worker, and has showcased his tremendous skill in MLS for several years now. His number 99 remains his forever. The club retired 99 after Wright-Phillips reached the 100 goal mark. Whenever this magnificent chapter of his playing career ends, he will always be remembered for his goal scoring exploits.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography