Thierry Henry: Grading His Opening Performance for the New York Red Bulls

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Thierry Henry: Grading His Opening Performance for the New York Red Bulls
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

In their opening match of the 2013 season, the New York Red Bulls and Thierry Henry played to a 3-3 away draw against the Portland Timbers.

But, despite the fact that earning a point on the road is certainly a positive for team, the Red Bulls earned that point with little to no help from Thierry Henry.

Henry started the match and even played the full 90, but struggled the entire evening to make an impact on the game.

Throughout Henry’s MLS career, his modus operandi has always been that he can be brilliant when he wants to be, but downright pedestrian when he isn’t in the mood.

This exact idea was expressed by ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman during the pregame broadcast of Sunday night’s match when Twellman said, “The question for the Red Bulls and (New York Red Bulls head coach) Mike Petke is which Thierry Henry are they going to get?”

Henry was listed in the opening lineup as the central striker in New York’s 4-2-1-3, but he quickly drifted out to the left side of the front line and remained there for the first 45 minutes of the game.

In the first half, Henry was a non-factor, as most of New York’s dangerous attacks came down the right side of the field. When Henry was involved, he repeatedly lost possession and displayed an uncharacteristic poor first touch. He also struggled to find any sort of a rhythm with Red Bulls left-back Roy Miller.

Credit must also be given to the Timbers, who put a body on Henry nearly every time he touched the ball. Henry struggled with the constant pressure and even looked annoyed that the Timbers wouldn’t give him the time and space on the ball he clearly wanted.

Henry’s best moment of the first half was when he got behind the Timbers defense on a nice run in the 39th minute, but couldn’t find Fabian Espindala with the ensuing centering pass.

In the second half, Henry played much more centrally and was more involved, yet still completely ineffective.

Henry did link up play on a couple of occasions in the second stanza, but still continued to commit the cardinal sin of a striker—running away from his midfield rather than supporting them.

In the second half, Henry also had three shots, two of which he sent well over and wide of the Timbers net and one that he drove hard, but straight at Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.

The worst individual moment of the game for Henry came in the 80th minute. With the Red Bulls still up 3-2, Henry wasted an opportunity to give New York a cushion wasting a breakaway opportunity. On the play, Henry took one of the worst first touches one could imagine from a professional footballer and Ricketts came out to end the play.

Perhaps even more troubling than Henry’s missed breakaway was his poor defensive effort. The Timbers were able to get continued possession out of their back four in the middle third of the field because Henry spent much of the second half standing in the center circle like a traffic cone.

As the Timbers built possession out of the back—a Caleb Porter trademark—New York’s midfield became overrun. After the game, Henry blamed New York’s lack of second-half possession on heavy legs, saying that New York “ran out of steam.”

There is no doubt that Thierry Henry has world-class talent—he scored 15 league goals for the Red Bulls last season—but with New York just removed from the designated player disaster that was Rafa Marquez, they need a much better effort from Henry going forward.

 

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