RSL Cup blog taking a long much needed break

I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996.

However, over the past couple of years, and especially the last several months, I've began to see the ugly underbelly of this sport. Most likely it has always been there and I was just too naïve to see it, but I cannot not see it anymore.

I'm taking a much needed break from the sport of soccer. I may or may not be back. I may or may not update this blog, I don't know. It would be a shame since I've had it up and running for almost 10 years, but the fun I once had just isn't there any more.

Hopefully you fare better.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The explosion of soccer on TV

(by Greg Lalas 8-24-11)

This may be an apocryphal comment made by European visitors and remembered by American soccer fans always looking for the silver lining, but there’s a significant symbolism to it:

You can watch more live soccer on TV here than in Europe.

It’s probably true. Today, US audiences have their choice of three soccer-specific channels, a regular presence on the ESPN networks and four Spanish-language channels that regularly show live matches. Then there are the various satellite channels, such as RAI (Italy), TV5Monde (France), TV Globo Internacional (Brazil) and that glorious section of DirectTV dedicated to the beautiful game.

Plus, starting in 2012, NBC and the new NBC Sports Network will join the party when they begin broadcasting MLS and US national team games.

In a typical week these days, a US-based soccer fan gets to choose from upwards of 50 live matches on cable TV alone (i.e., not on satellite).

Life was not always so clover-filled for soccer fans. Two or three decades ago, finding soccer on the tube was as likely as finding a baseball game in Uganda.

CBS broadcast the NASL for a few years in the 1970s, including airing Pelé’s debut for the New York Cosmos in 1975. The lead broadcaster on the 1976 Soccer Bowl was Jon Miller, whose voice eventually brought him an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Miller was also the play-by-play man for a network called TVS — a group of affiliated channels akin to today’s Comcast network — who covered the NASL in 1977 and 1978.

ABC broadcast the NASL in 1979 and 1980, with Jim McKay on play-by-play and longtime Soccer America writer Paul Gardner doing color commentary.

And after that, for all intents and purposes, the game disappeared, particularly on the national level. The fledgling ESPN and USA networks showed a few games here and there, including random indoor games and the occasional FA Cup final, but for the most part, soccer fans were forced to find satellite dishes at the local Irish pub or make due with PBS’s brilliant Soccer Made in Germany.

Yes, at one time, PBS was the champion of soccer on the airwaves.

How things have changed. And soccer fans are taking advantage of this bounty.

The 2010 World Cup 2010 between Spain and the Netherlands was viewed by 24.3 million people in the US and another 5.8 million in Canada. Nearly 13.5 million people tuned into ESPN for the 2011 Women’s World Cup final between the United States and Japan.

Much of soccer’s growing popularity in the United States can be attributed to the success off the US men’s national team. The numbers don’t lie: The USMNT’s 1990 World Cup opener against Czechloslovakia was watched by about 858,000 people on TBS; their round of 16 match against Ghana in 2010 drew more than 15 million on ABC.

Based on the North American Soccer Almanac’s survey, soccer fans here are consuming more soccer than ever in more ways than ever.

Fully 56 percent of respondents say they subscribe to particular TV channels “specifically in order to watch soccer.” Nearly 40 percent of respondents say they watch four or more matches a week.

They are also watching matches online or on mobile devices. Eighty-nine percent of respondents say they watch soccer online, while more than a quarter of respondents now catch matches on their iPhones, Androids and other mobile devices.

In short, soccer was once nowhere to be found. Today, you can find it — literally — everywhere.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

(more to come)

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Salt Lake Reals

When RSL was introduced to the Utah sports scene a lot of people unfamiliar with soccer could not understand the concept of a sports team not having a name like "the Jazz" or "the Bees". When the name Real Salt Lake was unveiled I remember watching our local newscasts and they all refered to the team as "the Reals". It took actually a couple of years for everyone to get on board and understand the concept. But for quite awhile local soccer fans were worried this team would forever be known as the Reals

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I would call that a "wiff"


Deal with NBC could be just the profile boost MLS is looking for

(by Richard Deitsch 8-10-11)

If you are a fan of Major League Soccer, today is a very good day for you.

On Wednesday, MLS and NBC Sports announced a three-year media rights agreement that moves the top American pro soccer league from the Fox Soccer Channel onto NBC and its cable properties. NBC and the NBC Sports Network, the newly named cable channel that will be re-branded from VERSUS on Jan. 2, 2012, will air a total of 49 games each season, including 45 MLS games and four involving the U.S. Men's National Team. The deal commences at the start of the 2012 MLS season.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Los Angeles Times, citing a person familiar with the deal, put the price tag at $12 million a year for three years. The Sports Business Daily tagged the deal at $10 million per year.

While the Fox Soccer Channel had carried MLS since 2003, the network's primary focus has always been on its heavy inventory of international soccer, particularly the English Premier League. That focus clearly irked MLS officials. One of the attractions of a move to NBC is the number of homes the network's properties can offer: VERSUS is in 76 million homes while Fox Soccer Channel is around 40 million.

Fox Soccer executive vice president and general manager David Nathanson told SBD today that "although we're disappointed MLS chose to go in a different direction, we wish them well while Fox Soccer continues to support the sport's growth in the U.S. through our in-depth coverage showcasing the most revered leagues, teams, players and competitions from around the globe."

ESPN still holds the rights to MLS games in a separate deal through 2014, and its deal includes the MLS Cup.

The specific breakdown for the NBC/MLS deal is as follows: NBC will broadcast two regular-season MLS games, two playoff games and two U.S. men's national team games. The NBC Sports Network (formally VERSUS) will televise 38 regular-season games, three playoff games and two U.S. men's national team games. All telecasts on NBC and NBC Sports Network will have pregame and postgame coverage. An NBC spokesman told that no announcers have been named for the new package and that such an announcement is likely months away.

Worth noting is the NBC Sports Group also obtained digital rights across all platforms and devices for the games it televises. "MLS is a perfect fit for our new group, and we are uniquely positioned to help grow soccer in the United States with extensive coverage on NBC Sports Network, significant programming on the broadcast network and our growing digital platforms," said NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus in a statement.

In a phone interview with The New York Times, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "This three-year deal allows us to align all our TV relationships to end concurrently at the end of '14 season and provides us with a potential opportunity to have more exclusive relationship with a broadcaster. Way to early to say what plans will be three years from now."

The NBC, ESPN and Univision media deals with MLS all end in 2014, a year highlighted by the World Cup in Brazil.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Freddy Adu returns to MLS, joins Philadelphia Union

(by Dave Zeitlin 8-12-11)

It’s official: Freddy Adu is returning to the league where his career began and reuniting with his first professional coach.

On Friday morning, the Philadelphia Union announced the blockbuster signing of the 22-year-old Adu, who will join the Union on a free transfer from Portuguese giants Benfica. Though terms of the deal were not disclosed, the club confirmed that Adu will not be a Designated Player.

Adu will be available for selection for Philadelphia's game at FC Dallas on Saturday.

One of the most well-known American soccer players of all-time, Adu made history when, at 14, he became the youngest athlete to sign a professional contract, inking the momentous deal with D.C. United in 2004.

Under the tutelage of Union manager Peter Nowak, who coached D.C. from 2004-'06, Adu played three seasons for United, making 87 regular season appearances and scoring 11 goals. In 2004, he helped the club win its fourth MLS Cup.

Ahead of the 2007 season, he was traded to Real Salt Lake, where he played only 11 games and scored one goal before moving to Benfica in Portugal.

However, in Europe, Adu’s progress stalled as the one-time prodigy struggled to earn sufficient minutes while being bounced around throughout the continent. After one season with Benfica, Adu had separate stints on loan with AS Monaco (France), Belenenses (Portugal), and Aris (Greece), none of which were particularly memorable.

It was only after he joined Turkish 2nd-division side Çaykur Rizespor on loan in January of this year that Adu began to regain his form. In half a season in Rize, he played 13 games, scored 4 goals, and led the club to 3rd place in the Turkish 1.Lig. The small, aspiring club just missed out on promotion to the country's top flight, the Turkish Super Lig, falling in the promotion playoff final to Orduspor.

His performances in Turkey led to a surprise call-up to the US national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June. Showing the kind of creativity, vision and ball control that first turned him into a star, Adu was very effective in the final two games of the tournament despite the fact that he was making his first international appearance in two years.

Adu, who will likely be used as an attacking central midfielder with the Union, was called up for national team duty again this week, but he did not suit up for Wednesday's friendly against Mexico at Lincoln Financial Field here in Philadelphia.

Now, Adu gets to stay in Philly – where he hopes his once-promising career can be revitalized under the same coach that gave it its start.

Sensational setting sun in San Jose

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Montreal Impact reveal new crest ahead of 2012 debut

( 8-7-11)

The Montreal Impact unveiled their new crest at halftime of their match against the Minnesota Stars on Saturday night in front of a capacity-crowd at Saputo Stadium as the club continues preparations for its debut as an expansion team in Major League Soccer next season.

“Today we are writing a new page in our history,” club president Joey Saputo said. “This logo is much more than just a logo, it’s a symbol of our engagement towards every soccer fan in Quebec. This new logo is primarily our supporters’ logo. I truly believe that Montreal can become the biggest soccer market in North America.”

Created by design agency Pigeon, the latest version of the Impact crest conveys the club’s evolution while showcasing its close relation with the city of Montreal and province of Quebec. Olivier Chevillot, creative director for Pigeon branding + design explained that the new logo conveys the club’s evolution toward another level of soccer.

“This new logo is more sophisticated, modeled around renowned international clubs”, explained Chevillot. “We are proud of our participation in the development of this major league symbol.”

The logo features eight symbols, each representing an element of the city or the club:

Blue: The club’s predominant color since its creation in 1993, while referring to the color of the provincial flag.

Four stars: Each star represents the four original communities of Montreal — the French, the English, the Irish and the Scots.

Fleur-de-lys: As promised, the fleur-de-lys has a predominant place on the logo.

Black and blue stripes: This symbol refers to first logo of the club, when it won the championship in 1994.

Scarf and team’s name: The scarf and slanted name represents the team’s supporters and hints back to the club’s inaugural logo in 1993 as well as the one in 2002.

New motto: The team’s new motto — “Tous pour gagner” — refers to the importance of unity for victory and reminds fans that the club is the sum of relentless efforts from players, staff, partners and supporters.

Shield: Formed in a traditional shape, the shield is a derivative of the city’s crest.

Silver: The silver used in the logo represents the background of the city of Montreal’s crest.

Next up for the club is the presentation of the official jerseys for next season, which will be unveiled in November.

A bounty of old uniform photos

Revs home - Crew away - 1996

Hurtado and Dunseth

Diaz Arce and Savarese


Kreis and Convey

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chivas home, Dynamo away 2011

2011 uniforms

Dynamo home

Crew road

Revolution road, first time they've sported a sponsor.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rock Star!

This kid stole the show at the World Football Challenge at Foxboro Stadium.

Football's fight for fans in the U.S

(by Roger Bennett 8-1-11)

I recently met an avid American soccer fan who had fallen for the game after the 2006 World Cup. Searching for a team to support, he originally pledged allegiance to then-Premier League champion Chelsea, but Gareth Bale's swashbuckling displays encouraged a transfer of his affections, and he recently morphed into a Tottenham fan.

On a trip to England last month, the fan was explaining his defection to a London cab driver who listened patiently before responding, "Can I be honest with you Guv'nor?"

"Yes," he replied.

"You can change your wife. You can change your underpants. But you can never, ever change your team."

The cabbie's rules may be right in Europe, where the club you support is passed through the generations down the family bloodline. But it is not true in the U.S., where a spike in television ratings has catalyzed an anarchical glut of curious new fans desperate to define a rooting interest. Teams are often selected for the most random of reasons: distant family ties, a haircut similar to a star player or a childhood vacation spent by chance in Blackburn.

The big European clubs are well aware that the 2010 World Cup has increased the sport's popularity in the U.S., fostering a lucrative market. Witness America's recent transformation into a vast continental training ground for leading European clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Juventus, culminating in the delirious All-Star spectacle showcasing Manchester United.

The Europeans are not only here to shake off the preseason rust, or to cash in their appearance money (Manchester United is reported to be bagging an estimated $9.2 million in appearance fees from its tour). Their ultimate goal is to grab curious Americans' attention and hook them on their club brand for life.

Manchester United estimates it has more than 6.5 million fans in the U.S., a number it would like to grow precipitously. Other than trumping the MLS All-Star team, or playing a glorified training session against a fellow giant, what longer-term branding and marketing strategies can the club employ to seduce new American fans?

Or, more simply put, what will make the difference between an American fan choosing Manchester United or Manchester City? Or Barcelona, Real Madrid or AC Milan, for that matter. I solicited the opinions of two marketing agency founders, Jon Cohen, CEO of Fader and Cornerstone, and Ian Schafer, the CEO of Deep Focus, as well as Boston Red Sox executive vice president and COO Sam Kennedy, who has been processing these issues since New England Sports Ventures' acquisition of Liverpool FC in 2010.

1. Stop the anarchy: Develop an overarching brand

Soccer, in the words of Schafer, remains an "outlier brand," but one loaded with potential that is, in Jon Cohen's eyes, "making giant strides every year." Schafer marveled at the success of Citi Field as a soccer venue. "Greece almost filled it against Ecuador [this summer]. Something the Mets aren't close to doing," he said.

A critical barrier for soccer is the inherent inefficiency of the every-team-for-itself approach. The NBA's growth in China, by contrast, is the product of a league-wide growth strategy, as is the NFL's attempt to hook the British on gridiron football. But in global soccer, anarchy reigns. Every club is participating in a gold rush of narrow self-interest in which no one takes ownership of the overarching brand. Cohen identified the dangerous blind spot created by this approach: "No entity is responsible for explaining how all the pieces lock together -- Copa America, Gold Cup, Europa Cup or Champions League all make sense when you have dedicated yourself to the sport, but to a newer fan they can be bewildering."

2. I am the lore: Selling heritage and fandom

What makes a club unique? A history of storied achievement, legendary characters and epic rivalries. "Americans enjoy sports as a platform for storytelling," explained the Boston Red Sox's Sam Kennedy, "we love to tell tales about heritage, history and tradition."

But for domestic soccer clubs, communicating their celebrated pasts to a new American fan base is an uphill struggle. "History and heritage only mean something if a sentimental connection exists," Schafer said. "If we can't harken back to a simpler time we experienced ourselves, it does not amount to much."

"European geography is not an American strong suit," Schafer added. "We're largely unaware there are actual places called Manchester and Liverpool, but the clubs have the perfect fallback position in their brand name and logos -- it's all about 'United' and 'The Reds.' The clubs should simply find ways to show fans what we can be part of."

"There is nothing more powerful than genuine, credible fan passion," Cohen agreed. "We have some of it here -- the Garden, the Yankees bleachers -- but soccer has a unique intensity that never stops." Both men believe the clubs can do more to educate Americans about the culture surrounding the game. "Fan passion remains an underutilized commodity," Cohen suggested. "A club's chants and rituals are eminently marketable. They should film game action twice. Once with the players seen through the fans' eyes, and again the other way round, like the kind of multiple angles NASCAR routinely used to portray a sense of the same race."

As part of NESV, which owns Liverpool, Kennedy is grappling with strategies to tap into the game-day experience and take it one step further. "Nothing beats attending a game in person," he said. "My first game at Anfield was life-changing. I was mesmerized."

With Liverpool as close to New York as New York is to Los Angeles, NESV is examining ways of tempting American sports aficionados to experience the passion and choreography of an English Premier League game live. "Television is good, but actually being at Anfield is unlike anything in American sports, and I have seen World Series games at Fenway," Kennedy said. "The sustained intensity of the passion makes Anfield a cathedral in the world of sports."

3. There is an I in team: Market the players first, and the teams will follow

While team affiliation may be the ultimate goal, the elite skill and human charisma of individual players are an easier sell at the outset. "Take a Messi and put him at the level of a Kobe, or put Wayne Rooney in the same commercial spot as Amare," Schafer urged. "This is where the hidden hand of powerbrokers Nike and adidas come into play."

Cohen concurred: "The powerhouse athletic brands establish sport's iconography and play a key role in telling the stories of the athletes they deem to be important. The teams need to ride that endorsement muscle to break out a crossover star we can relate to."

"David Beckham could have been that crossover star," Schafer suggested, "but he 'crossed over' too far -- too much fashion, not enough performance."

Both marketers believed one man has what it takes to break out in the United States -- Wayne Rooney. "He is a character that young people can connect to because he appears to transcend the sport," Schafer said. A tailor-made communications strategy built for the U.S. market is key. "When Rooney reads the Top 10 List on Letterman via remote from Old Trafford," Cohen said, "we will know Manchester United are serious."

4. Brand transference: Let the magic of others rub off on soccer

Brand transference is a standard move in any marketer's playbook. The transfer of an existing brand's positive standing to introduce a less familiar product, such as what William Shatner did for Priceline. The "spectacle approach" is an effective strategy that often works for sports, according to Ian Schafer. "I would have Manchester United play the Yankees at baseball and soccer in an athlete-to-athlete doubleheader or at the very least," he said, "put Chicharito out to throw the first pitch at a playoff baseball game." (This approach sounds great conceptually, though the reality did not work out too well for Manchester United's Gary Neville.)

The strategy can work in reverse. The European teams could import role models from the American sports pantheon who have a genuine curiosity about soccer. "America needs more athletes like Steve Nash who can articulate a sense of wonder around the sport," Schafer said. "Manchester United need to get Chris Paul and dump him in a fan section at Old Trafford," Jon Cohen proposed, "then sit back and capture his reactions throughout the game."

Sports figures are not the only alternative ambassadors who can be used to message a team's rituals and customs. "The world of music has barely been tapped," Cohen said. "The number of bands who influence their fan bases and are crazy for soccer is staggering -- Blur's Damon Albarn and his love of Chelsea, for instance." Manchester City dabbled with this strategy during its 2011-12 jersey launch. Not everyone is an Oasis fan, but the extra buzz the team received by involving ex-lead-singer Liam Gallagher in a slightly surreal video was priceless.

Perhaps the most prominent and controversial example of this approach was LeBron James' acquisition of a minority ownership in Liverpool. Schafer was skeptical about the synergy of the deal. "Something smells wrong. We had never previously heard LeBron liked the sport -- never mind had a connection Liverpool," Schafer said. "I would love for this to be real, but he is going to have to prove it, and LeBron is not exactly known for being loyal to cities."

Kennedy explained the process from inside the deal. "This was LeBron's idea. He has watched a lot of global soccer on ESPN and has become intrigued," Kennedy said. "For him, this was simply an opportunity to invest in one of most important clubs in the sport."

Cohen agreed LeBron carries baggage, but sees an easy solution. "If we can get him to some matches, LeBron can show us his passion and demonstrate this is more than a press release."

5. Become America's team: Integrating U.S. talent into the squad

Global soccer's approach to conquer the Asian markets has been very straightforward. Signing Asia's finest players -- Park Ji-Sung at Manchester United, Lee Chung-Yong at Bolton and Ji Dong-Won at Sunderland -- has proven a tried and tested way to trigger a fan frenzy.

The lack of apparent depth in the U.S. game -- aside, of course, from goalkeepers, Clint Dempsey and Stuart Holden -- presents a challenge, but not a fatal one. "You only need to see what impact Landon Donovan's 10-game cameo had for Everton's profile in the United States to glimpse the possibility," Cohen said. "America tunes in."

You can easily envision possibilities. MLS teams could build on the type of commercial partnerships clubs like the Colorado Rapids have struck with Arsenal, and loan young American stars such as Omar Gonzalez, Andy Najar and Tim Ream to train in England during the MLS offseason. "The MLS may not like their young talent playing year round," said Cohen, "but they will love the statement such moves make, bringing some global exposure to the league, its talent and respective teams."

Any European club eventually signing Juan Agudelo, even just on loan, may find it hard to overpay. It would be buying American eyeballs as much as goals and assists.

6. Partnering with powerhouses: The strength of major league joint-marketing deals

When Manchester United and the New York Yankees struck a pioneering joint-marketing deal in 2001, the relationship fizzled before the two giants could truly derive a benefit. But the time may now be right for more clubs to develop cross-promotional partnerships with leading American MLB, NFL or NBA franchises.

"If I were running Barcelona after their Champions League triumph," said Cohen, "I would have taken a giant billboard outside of the San Francisco Giants stadium and launched a 'Game Recognizes Game' campaign. Barca could develop a relationship with the Giants, honor their World Series achievement, and bask in Americans' glow."

Liverpool's shared ownership with the Boston Red Sox offers an intriguing array of cross-promotional possibilities, but Kennedy disclosed that NESV is not rushing into anything. "Our goal is to expose Liverpool to New England slowly," he said. The English team's games are replayed on New England Sports Network, and a sprinkling of Liverpool merchandise is available at Fenway Park's concessions stands. But for Kennedy, it is important to respect the differing histories and traditions of the two teams. "It is illogical to say because you have grown up cheering for Boston teams your whole life, you should automatically become a Liverpool fan," he said.

7. America's next top model: Utilizing team style

"There was a fleeting period in the late '80s when soccer style crossed over," Schafer reminisced, conjuring a time when baggy Umbro soccer shorts accompanied by a pair of adidas Sambas were summer camp de rigueur. It's an era which feels quaint when compared to the sophistication of today's apparel marketing. "Soccer needs a classic Air Jordan strategy -- a team-related sport line that can be worn on the street."

"There are few finer ways to communicate a love of soccer than through fashion and style," Cohen said. "Logos and jerseys carry a real allure to Americans."

Cohen encourages teams to distribute their shirts to culturally influential Americans. "Barca should have put their iconic jersey on Lil Wayne when he played Bonnaroo," he said, "and while Manchester City were in Los Angeles, they should have opened a pop-up store to launch a limited edition of Manchester City Umbro-wear designed in collaboration with [cult sneaker-store] Undefeated. Approached that way, soccer has a real possibility of gaining broad urban appeal."

Kennedy revealed clubs are incentivized to experiment with strategies like these. "Soccer merchandise is extremely lucrative compared to the U.S. major leagues, which handle the marketing on your behalf and take a percentage of the revenue for doing so," he said. Soccer has no such middleman.

While there has been a noticeable proliferation of team jerseys worn as fashion statements, Schafer believes they are not yet at the level they could be. "The jerseys remain the equivalent of a fad like a trucker's hat or a hipster's ironic T-shirt," he said. "The message they convey is 'I am worldly' as opposed to 'I live and die for the sport of soccer in general and this team in particular.'"

8. Bring the mountain to Muhammad: Play a game that matters in the U.S.

This year's sold-out MLS All-Star Game at Red Bull Arena was one of many exhibition games to draw a sizable crowd with a frenetic atmosphere. But on the field, is impossible to disguise the fact the European clubs are playing during their preseason downtime. "The teams let their starters play for 30 minutes max and then their reserves fill the field," Cohen said. "To really make us care about their storylines, they have to play games here that mean something."

Schafer suggested, "They have to find a way to make the U.S. the world's stage, soccer-wise. A league game would be good, but Americans like nothing more than loser-goes-home tournament play. Let's have the Champions League final at Giants Stadium."

The idea may seem radical, but in 2008 the English Premier League flirted with the notion of scheduling a "39th game" in places as far flung as Australian, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Sepp Blatter blasted the plan, declaring it to be "nonsense" and "an abuse of football," but with FIFA, as we have seen in the past year, every idea is possible, especially the farfetched.

For all the variety of the above ideas, Liverpool's Kennedy was resolute in his belief that one simple strategy can trump the rest. "Winning is the best strategy," he said. "There is nothing -- nothing -- that sports fans love more. That is our No. 1 goal."

Henry is Still Great

( 8-1-11)

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger believes, former foster children who are now defending the New York Red Bulls, Thierry Henry, still appear in the high performance even though he is not young anymore.

It was mentioned by Wenger after his team draw against New York Red Bulls 1-1 at the Emirates Cup on Sunday (31/07/2011). Appearance of 33-year-old attacker was quite impressive. In fact, he is an important actor behind an own goal which made ​​Kyle Bartley.

“They say, big clubs do not ever die, and it’s just as great players never die. Thierry showed us that he is still qualified by the legs and head,” explained Wenger.

“With his head, I know he still has a good quality. With his feet, I do not know exactly. However, he still has a good physical and have prepared him best for this game. I am very excited to see his performance today,” continued the coach Frenchman.

Wenger had hoped Henry could appear to defend his team in the final minutes of the match.

“I want him to play with us in the last five minutes. However, the referee did not allow it. I went to the referee when istirihat and asked him to let Henry performing with us. But, they told us that the rules do not allow players to play on two teams in the game the same, “he explained.

Emirates Cup title ends perfect weekend for Henry

(by Joe Prince-Wright 7-31-11)

Thierry Henry stood in the middle of the pitch at Emirates Stadium, arms aloft as the ball crossed the Arsenal goal-line. New York players rushed to their talismanic forward to celebrate. They knew how much a winning return to Arsenal meant to Henry.

The Red Bulls captain, who had an emotional day returning to the club he still supports and loves, was extremely happy his current team could send out a message of intent to Europe and beyond.

“At the end of the day, we came here to compete,” Henry said after that match. “It was a friendly tournament, but the win is good for us. We are fighting to get into the playoffs in our conference. It is a good result for the MLS as a league and obviously for the Red Bulls.”

Henry set up the goal that secured the 1-1 tie and the Emirates cup by threading through a pass to left back Roy Miller in the 84th minute. Miller’s cross was then bundled into the Arsenal net by Gunners defender Kyle Bartley.

It was, in many respects, the perfect end to an emotional weekend for Henry, who was welcomed back to the Emirates Stadium by Arsenal fans in glorious fashion. A sellout crowd of 60,011 turned out to see their former striker perform. When his name was mentioned on the loud speakers before the game, a standing ovation from Arsenal fans showed just how popular Henry still is in North London.

Henry certainly found the support he received from the Arsenal fans humbling as he reflected on a victorious weekend in London.

“It was kind of weird; the fans were all cheering for me when I had the ball,” Henry said. “Then I am clapping them while I am playing at the same time. It was weird. I have a strong love for the club and have a great understanding with the fans here.”

“Welcome home Thierry” read just one of the many signs made by fans at the Emirates today. Even when the Frenchman scored a goal in the warm up, the crowd behind the goal celebrated. Henry has legendary status back in North London and is working hard to earn the same status in the US.

The current MLS-leading goal scorer also had a special surprise in store for home fans as both clubs agreed for Henry to play the final 10 minutes for Arsenal. Yet FIFA rules and the referee put a stop to what would have been a nice gesture from Henry to his beloved fans.

“There are some weird rules,” Henry said. “FIFA or the ref denied it. They are the bosses of the game now ... that’s just how it is. I was asked to do it and I said why not. It would have been nice. It doesn’t matter though, I think I played enough games in the Arsenal shirt!”

Henry’s homecoming could not have gone any better as he and his Red Bull teammates return to New York with the Emirates Cup in one hand, and a confidence boost from coming out on top against elite European opposition in the other.

The Red Bulls No. 14 singled out his teammates for special praise, some of whom played two full games two days in a row after a tiring journey to London.

“We don’t have a big squad, so it was kind of difficult for us to put two teams out there,” Henry said. “Some of the guys played two full 90s two days in a row, so you have to give credit to them. It is not easy. I definitely know what its like to run when Arsenal have the ball. I use to be on the other side.”

Red Bulls 3rd uniform?