A veteran of the Premier League and Spain’s La Liga, the New York Red Bulls captain surely didn’t know the difference between a Kei Kamara and a Kasuke Kimura some 36 months ago, but the nearly 35 year old veteran striker has undergone quite a crash course in American Soccer since landing in the United States.
“I try to stay in touch in the game,” Henry explained. “It was more difficult for me in the very beginning; I didn’t know the teams, I didn’t know some of the players. Now, let’s be honest, I have been here for two years; you don’t have to tell me how some teams play and how good the players are and what they do. By now, you should know how most of the teams should play.”
Beyond the stat sheet, Henry consistently exhibits a deep knowledge base of his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses; a fact that is not lost amongst the gathered media. Days prior to New York’s encounter against Toronto FC, Henry was quick to point out his break down of the current state of affairs surrounding their Northern rival.
“They’ve been playing way better,” he said,”scoring goals – also conceding goals. I am sure they want to show their new boss that they are better than what they were and obviously their fans (as well). Their record doesn’t reflect how they are playing right now. It’s going to be a tough game like it is every time we go out there. They are making it very difficult for the teams they are playing against.”
And that is TFC in a nutshell. “No disrespect,” he explained, “but if you are in the league, wherever you are, and you don’t know after two years how the players are playing or whatever it would be, it would be … not good, if I can say.”
Along with learning the ways of MLS, Henry has noticed a surge in notoriety thanks to a recent Red Bulls ad campaign. Large scale billboards, building facades and posters with his likeness are plastered around major hubs throughout the New York area.
“It’s kinda weird for me,” he explained. “I just wanted to play the game and when you see the type of stuff that I am seeing right now, it’s a bit too much at times, but I guess it is what it is. Just happy to show it around to my family I guess. Like I said to you, it’s not the type of thing I care about too much but it is what it is.”
After a strong start to the season, which saw Henry top the MLS goal scoring charts, hamstring issues and an ill-advised return to play back in May have derailed his production. “It was a bit stupid to come back against Chivas early,” he admitted. “Had a little set back.”
Both Henry and Head Coach Hans Backe believe he will once again be ready to perform in a greater capacity after extended training sessions this week.
“He should be able to do almost 90 I think,” Backe asserted. “Definitely up to 70, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s up to 90 minutes.”