Winless since June 8, the New York Red Bulls needed a world-class performance from one of its marquee players, and that’s exactly what Thierry Henry gave them on Saturday.
The French legend was effervescent against the Columbus Crew. He serenely shredded Columbus’ defensive setup as he picked out passes and controlled the game’s tempo. His goal and three assists led New York to its first victory in over a month.
This year hasn’t been Henry’s most prolific since he made the move to the Big Apple. The Arsenal great hasn’t been as fluid and cataclysmic as we’ve grown accustomed to.
Before the game against the Crew, Henry had only scored three goals and assisted six in 14 starts. For a normal MLS striker, those numbers are acceptable, but for someone who has dominated the toughest leagues in Europe, those numbers are a bit perplexing.
What’s more disturbing – and shocking ‒ is Henry’s accuracy. The 36-year-old has fired 50 shots this season, but only 16 have been on target. In some games Henry has looked disinterested. There have been way too many occasions where the Red Bulls captain has his hands on his hip, or has a look of disgust on his face and most of the time, he doesn’t even bother to celebrate with teammates.
However, during the 4-1 victory Henry was utterly embroiled in the game.
“At halftime, he was fuming [about] just the way we were playing – we went up 1-0, we just gave up a bad goal – and we got the lead again and even when we got the lead we were just giving up big chances,” Luis Robles said.
He came in at halftime and was just irate and in a way it was good because he took it out on the [Crew] in the second half. Obviously that was vintage Thierry. When he plays like that, there’s not a defense in the league that’s going to be able to stop him.”
Just like Robles stated, Henry was unstoppable. In the 17th minute, the soccer great majestically laid the ball on a platter for Bradley Wright-Phillips to finish.
He jogged to the left side, received the ball, turned and laid it off to Eric Alexander. He had the presence of mind to accelerate into the hole in the defense and was rewarded with a return pass from Alexander. He first-timed the a cross into BWP’s path and proceeded to lay on the turf with his arms crossed as his teammate jogged over to celebrate with him.
On the cusp of the halftime whistle, Henry ended his eight-game goalless streak. After BWP’s attempts were brilliantly saved, Henry effortlessly placed a loose ball into an empty net and walked away like nothing happened.
His swagger was on display as he set Lloyd Sam up for New York’s third goal. He had the ball on the right flank, but instead of accelerating pass his defender, he moved slowing towards the end line and picked out superb pass. His pass fell right into Sam’s path, and the Englishman made no mistake.
In the final minute of the game, New York’s most recognizable signing became the club’s all-time leader in assists. On a fast break, Henry stayed central and was picked out inside the center circle. Instead of taking a touch, he elected to open up his body and played Alexander in on goal. The assist was his 37th in a Red Bulls shirt, taking him past Tab Ramos and Amado Guevara.
Henry will have to perform like he did against Columbus if he wants to ever get his hands on that elusive MLS Cup.