Thierry Henry shines in impressive Red Bull victory

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

HARRISON, N.J. – There is no guarantee that the New York Red Bulls will advance against DC United in the Eastern Conference semi-final series.

That is all the more reason to appreciate the work of Thierry Henry while you still can.

Talk of Henry’s exit have followed him throughout the season. Retirement has been speculated, as has the possibility of pursuing another opportunity within world football.

With a pair of dodgy tendons slowing him down, the Red Bulls’ captain seemed anything but restrained in New York’s thrilling 2-0 victory over DC.

“It is pretty incredible as a spectator to see what he’s doing at 37 years old, and as a teammate, you just really appreciate those moments because not only is he a huge part of what we are trying to accomplish here, but he’s been doing this for four and a half years,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “So we’re hoping that we can kind of just get on board and help him get to where he wants to get and I know that he has a huge decision in his future, but that’s for him to decide.

“Right now we’re playing so we don’t have to worry about that and we’ll hopefully continue to play and let him postpone that decision as much as possible.”

The star striker played distributor from the left side of the field, setting up not one, but both Red Bull goals in the first leg of this home-and-home encounter. That performance was highlighted by an impressive backheel to set Bradley Wright-Phillips loose on the opening goal of the match.

“To his credit, a lot of people would have done the backheel but not had no clue what was behind them. He certainly knew exactly what was there,” head coach Mike Petke said after the match. “Thierry is a special player. Anyone who knows anything about soccer knows that.”

That is not to take away from his second assist of the night. Henry effortlessly sent a perfectly placed ball towards teammate Peguy Luyindula who fired home to double the Red Bulls lead.

“He saw me going in the space there and that ball was perfect,” Luyindula said. “I just had to focus myself on the control and the finish. As you can see, the ball was right on me.”

His performance is especially impressive considering Henry’s perceived struggles in the MLS postseason. In his four years with New York, he has found the back of the net only once (2011 vs. FC Dallas) and has been unable to carry the franchise as he does during the regular season.

On Sunday afternoon, there was no question who was pulling the strings in the Red Bull offense. Nevertheless, the experienced Henry does not take a moment to relish in the moment. Instead, his focus remains on the second leg at RFK.

“We’re not there yet so it’s kind of a mixed feeling because you’re obviously happy because you won and you’re going to go over there [to D.C.] with something to defend,” Henry notes. “I’ve been in some times before in my career where everybody thought that maybe we were out, or maybe we were going through and then it didn’t happen.

“We have to relax; [D.C. United] have showed this whole season that they are a good team. We took care of business at home and I expect them to try to do the same thing on Saturday.

“Like I said to you, it’s always better to go out there with something to defend, but we haven’t done anything yet.”