Commentary: Thierry Henry Must Stop On-Pitch Complaining and Adapt for RBNY

Full disclosure: I am a Red Bulls supporter.  So this piece will be sauteed in subjective butter.

Thierry Henry’s career, one of the most remarkable in the history of the world’s game, speaks for itself.  If you’re reading this you don’t know need me to list his credentials.  There is simply no arguing that from 1998 to 2008, Henry was among a handful of the greatest players in the world.  His career in Major League Soccer at RBNY started off on a poor note, dogged by injuries and the same criticisms of commitment that followed David Beckham’s early tenure with the LA Galaxy.

2011, Henry’s first complete season with the club, was supposed to be different.  He trained in the offseason at Arsenal and iterated a believable desire to win to all 11 journalists that regularly cover the team at beautiful Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ.  Over a three-game span in April Henry found his perfect striking dance partner in Luke Rodgers and the New York Red Bulls beat San Jose, D.C. and Sporting KC by a combined score of 8-0.

April seems like four campaigns ago.

The New York Draw Machines went 0-1-4 in May and subsequently, due to being pillaged by the Gold Cup and a nagging injury to Rodgers, have become an MLS model of inconsistency.  Tie-win-tie-loss-tie-tie-win-loss-tie.  The once sure-thing Eastern Conference champions now sit in second position, two points behind  Philadelphia and only a point clear of Columbus.  But with two matches in-hand, RBNY could see themselves in third position within a week or two.  Any football observer could tell you after watching their horrid performance at Chivas USA Saturday night that this Red Bulls side is not very good currently.

And Henry is unhappy.  You don’t have to ask him.  His on-pitch tantrums have become the only consistent element of the Red Bulls roster.  With every pass that goes awry from Dane Richards and every run not made from Juan Agudelo, Henry’s hands are thrust into the sky and accompanied by a “what the hell are you doing” face.   Henry is not leading his side, earning their respect and that band on his arm that reads “captain”.  Henry is complaining and reminding us, the spectators, he is better than everybody else on the pitch.

He’s reminding us with hand gestures.  Not with his play.  There’s no doubting Henry’s greatness, even if his pace is not where it once was.  But if that greatness is ever to translate to MLS, the French legend must find a way to make those around him better.  He must begin to understand their technical deficiencies and compensate with his own game.  The Red Bulls have 13 matches remaining until they’ll face their demons of postseason past.  If this roster, perhaps the most talented in the league, is to claim their first trophy since coming into existence, they will need Henry to be Henry.  Not the petulant ghost of EPL past, dragging his chains with a drooped face, but a smart footballer with an understanding of the men he’s playing with and the league he’s playing in.

When he comes to that understanding, it will translate to wins for RBNY.  And maybe a title.

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