Monday May 17th, 2010

Three thoughts on Thierry Henry's almost certain move to the New York Red Bulls after the 2010 World Cup:

1. We all knew this was coming. How much does Henry love New York City? The first time I ever spoke to him one-on-one -- in July 2000 two nights before the Euro 2000 final -- Henry told me that whenever he visited NYC he felt like he was "walking in a movie." Henry-to-New York should be a perfect marriage of player and city. Henry doesn't have the celebrity Q-rating of David Beckham, but he does have a personality and standing that match up well with a Gotham icon like, say, Derek Jeter. Henry should also tip his cap to Victoria Beckham; I'm convinced David Beckham would have wanted to go to New York himself in 2007 if Victoria hadn't always insisted on moving to Los Angeles instead. David's loss is Thierry's gain.

2. Henry shouldn't assume he'll rule the league. Beckham faced a raft of problems upon his arrival in MLS -- injuries in 2007, epic losing in '08 -- and he has yet to make an MLS Best XI. As one of the Premier League's greatest players, Henry and his style should fit in well with MLS, a fast-paced league that rewards fit players who can handle the summer heat of the United States. But New York is a results-oriented town, and Henry will need to earn his stripes by producing goals and victories. The Red Bulls appear to be a team on the rise, blessed with a fantastic new stadium, a (so far) smart-looking new coaching staff, some promising young players (none better than rookie defender Tim Ream) and a forward with class in Juan Pablo Angel. If Angel and Henry can work well together from the start, this could be a dangerous team.

3. Henry will feel like he has something to prove. The Frenchman certainly shouldn't have any motivation problems after his humbling season at Barcelona. Can he make up for it at the World Cup? Maybe. I'm not worried about Henry's ability to win over New York City sports fans off the field. He's a charming guy, and his clear love for the area will come across immediately. But the best way to win everyone over will be by scoring highlight-reel goals that show up on SportsCenter every week. There are plenty of people who can give Henry advice on how to make it in America, from his good friend Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs to his former France teammate (and one-time MetroStar) Youri Djorkaeff. Plus, Henry won't just be competing against current MLS teams. He'll also be hoping to stack up to the formidable legacy of Pele and the New York Cosmos. Those are a lot of expectations to live up to, but Henry has the temperament and the talent to give it a fair shot.

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