Thierry Henry's positive impact on MLS

The signing of Thierry Henry by the New York Red Bulls is a landmark signing for the MLS. Henry's choice to move to the MLS rather than another European league is a major boost for American soccer. Courtesy David Clerihew/RBNY

By Kevin Koczwara

Thierry Henry started his Major League Soccer career with two assists for the New York Red Bulls in a 2-2 draw with the Houston Dynamo on July 31. It was a bittersweet debut for the France international, his team gave up a stoppage time equalizer, and he missed his chance to opening his scoring account with an opportunity that he has too often back of the net. His missed opportunity might have cost the Red Bulls three points as it would have been the insurance goal the team needed late in the game.

But that was over a month ago and the Red Bulls have Rafa Marquez – its third designated player.

Marquez played with Henry’s at Barcelona the past few years and also found himself on the outside looking in on the Catalan giants squad and decided a move to the MLS was worth a shot. Marquez is Mexico’s captain and a good image for the league’s marketing schemes much like Blanco was for Chicago and the MLS just a season ago. Marquez is a skilled veteran player who will help show the rest of the world that America’s top-flight league keeps getting better.

As for Henry, it would take him close to a month in league play to score his first goal, Marquez, a strong defender, would score before the French striker. On August 28, Henry finally notched his first goal in a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. Does this mean Henry doesn’t fit into the Red Bulls scheme or into the style of play of the MLS? I don’t think so. It takes a while for strikers to get on the right foot and start scoring goals, they need good service and more than one chance.

Henry has proved to be a vital cog in the Red Bull attack since his move. He has played eight games, scored two goals and already has tied the team lead in assists with three, impressive numbers for any player jumping into a side that has already established itself.

The Red Bulls have gone 4-2-2 (14 points) since Henry’s arrival and made a push for the top-spot in the Eastern Conference, which would secure the team one of the top-two spots in the playoffs.

Henry’s arrival in New York as a designated player can be argued to be just as important for the MLS as David Beckham’s signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy. As for endorsements, money and notoriety, not many players in the world have the same kind of profile that the 35-year-old Beckham has, but Henry is no slouch by any stretch – remember Henry was once a man who was a face for Gillette alongside Roger Federer and Tiger Woods..

Henry’s arrival marked the coming of a second marketable and talented player in a major market for the MLS. Beckham has spent much of his time on the sidelines for the Galaxy with injuries.

Beckham’s injuries have hampered his impact and disillusioned many of the fans he was suppose to persuade. When he first joined the league, his personality and pop-culture relevance brought many fans that would never have watched the MLS in to stadiums.

Attendance spiked when Beckham jointed the Galaxy, and now Henry is having the similar affect for the Red Bulls.

New York needed to help fill the new seats in the new Red Bull Arena, and Henry has done just that for the team.

Before Henry’s arrival, the Red Bulls averaged 16,276 people per home match through the team’s eight league home games before the Frenchman’s arrival. With Henry dawning the Red Bull jersey the team has averaged 22,653 people in the four league home games. With more fans comes more expectations of course.

After finishing in last place last season, things have really turned around this year, and with the signings of Henry and Marquez, the team has to be a favorite to come home with the MLS Cup and take over as the most marketable and top drawing team in all of America.

Kevin Koczwara is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at kevin.koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com.

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