On a night where the New York Red Bulls all-time leading goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips returned from injury, it was the forward who replaced him that made the difference in the game.
Brian White’s second half goal gave RBNY breathing room on Friday night in their 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire.
White has been making an impact in the Red Bulls organization ever before being drafted in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft last year. He scored 21 goals in 25 appearances for RBNY’s PDL side. White scored 10 goals over 26 appearances last season at NYRBII, (He even kept a clean sheet playing keeper) before he earned a first team contract.
While White only had 6 appearances last year and did manage a goal in his only start, it was a matter of time before he broke through. The former Duke Blue Devil wouldn’t have to wait as long this year.
After BWP went out with his injury, White has made this most of his chance, leading the front line along with other NYRB II standout Tom Barlow (who also earned a first team contract this year). One person who’s not surprised he’s taken advantage of the opportunity is RBNY manager Chris Armas.
“Nothing he’s doing surprising me or any of us because we’ve seen it,” Armas said. “We’ve seen it at every level, and all of last year when he’s training with us, he’s scoring in training. The question was, when you take him out a step up, give him speed of play and less space to deal with and better defenders, can it still happen.”
This year, White answered the question. The striker has 5 goals in 10 appearances including 3 goals in his last 5 games.
“I think one of his best qualities (is)he runs off the ball well,” Armas said. “His timing of when to arrive, he’s got that feel for things inside the box, kind of like Brad does. They show up just in the right moment, in the right space and the right time.”
It’s exactly how he scored the goal on Friday night. After winning the initial 50/50 ball at midfield and then following up Kaku’s pass which was a little behind Alex Muyl, to spread the ball out wide to Daniel Royer. White ran in between both defenders as Royer’s delivered his cross and the forward was able to poke the ball into the net.
Brian is fast and he’s clever,” Armas said. “He gives a lot to the team. I think it speaks for itself; he’s producing goals and he also understands our style of play against the ball.”
White earned Armas’s plaudits, and an endorsement from Wright-Phillips.
“I’m a big fan of Brian. I think his all-around play is – I’m not sure you’ll notice this – but I think it’s very underrated,” Wright-Phillips said. “I think his finishing is top class, he proves that every day in training. Even the shift he puts in today, it’s not easy for him, you know he’s not getting a lot of touches and he gets his goal, and I’m delighted for him.”
White’s wholesale improvement this season impressed Armas and the coaching staff.
“In terms of where he’s evolved, I think that the way he’s connected to the game in all ways and all moments,” Armas said. “The goals are not surprising; we’re thrilled. But his hold-up play staying connected; the little things that end up. I think around the world, the best leagues and the best teams where fans are clapping 60 yards for goal and a striker could get his body in bring somebody in the pressure, he shows maturity with the little things.”
Despite BWP’s return, don’t be surprised if White continues to earn more minutes up top. He’s earned them.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography