Thierry Henry retired last week, bringing the curtains down on an illustrious career spanning twenty years, amassing over twenty trophies in the process. Henry’s career in Europe can only be considered a resounding success with the player often considered to be the best player ever to grace the Premier League. However, his four year tenure in the MLS may be looked at more with a sense of what could have been; rather than what was.
Upon Henry’s arrival to the New York Red Bulls in December 2010, the player stated that his sole aim was to “to help win the club its first championship.” It was generally accepted that Henry and his teammates should be afforded the rarely-allowed luxury of time before expecting a great deal of success. At the time, the Red Bulls were more accustomed to fighting relegation and mid-table mediocrity than for silverware in the MLS. However, when David Beckham departed the MLS two years later, leaving Henry the highest paid player in the league, a sense of expectation was rising that it was time for the player to repay the faith shown by the club with a piece of major silverware. Unfortunately, whilst Beckham final act as a LA Galaxy player was winning the prestigious MLS Cup, Henry left the Red Bulls with a solitary MLS Supporters Shield.
Whilst Henry’s trophy haul in New York may not be lauded, arguably the greatest disappointment during his time in the MLS was his impact on those that surrounded him. Much like LA Galaxy in 2007, the Red Bulls had hoped that Henry’s introduction would positively impact the style and quality of play of the entire team whilst providing a great opportunity to breed the next generation of skillful youngsters talented enough of plying their trade in the MLS. Whilst Beckham undoubtedly helped his teammates fortunes, with Landon Donovan posting a career best 20 goals in the season immediately following Beckham’s arrival, Henry often proved to be a hinderance for the club. The rap sheet stands tall of the players Red Bulls introduced in an attempt to amalgamate Henry’s skill with the club’s overall ambitions. Although certain players such as Bradley Wright Phillips undoubtedly benefited from Henry’s presence on and off the pitch, players such as Dax Maccarthy, Kebby Cooper and Peguy Luyindula have not fared so well.
It should be noted that whilst Henry’s career stateside may not have hit the dizzying heights of his exertions in Europe, efforts in the MLS should not be considered to have been entirely fruitless. Henry’s provided countless displays of brilliance, with goals against Montreal Impact and Sporting KC reminding fans and critics alike of his unique ability. His tally of 51 goals and 42 assists in addition to driving the Red Bulls to the playoffs in each of his four years represents a strong return for the club.
Despite flashes of true brilliance in addition to his occasional on pitch achievement and many personal accolades, MLS and Red Bull fans may be left wondering that there was more to be gained from “The Thierry Henry Show”.
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