Red Bulls marvel at "engaged, unstoppable" Henry vs. SKC
(by Franco Panizo newyorkredbulls.com 9-8-14)
When Thierry Henry is engaged, he is simply overpowering.
That was a refrain that was reiterated more than once inside the New York Red Bulls’ locker room following a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City that put them back in a playoff position on Saturday.
It was not just the sizzling second-half goal Henry scored that was the difference in the match, but also his determined demeanor from the opening whistle.
Stationed in a new role out on the left side of the midfield, the 37-year-old Henry demonstrated from the opening whistle a fiery passion that lasted even after the final whistle at Red Bull Arena.
New York’s captain is no stranger to showing his trademark intensity and fierce competitiveness, but this was a bit different.
More of it was channeled towards beating the opposition. More of it was used to encourage teammates rather than scowl at them for mistakes (though, naturally, there was some of that). More of it was used to hustle and defend, things that even the technically-gifted Henry has been criticized quite a bit for since joining the Red Bulls.
“When Thierry’s pissed off in the right way, when he’s engaged and when he’s taking it upon himself to be mentally into it right from the beginning, he’s unstoppable,” said midfielder Dax McCarty.
“You can’t stop a player like that when he wants to play at his absolute best. I think he always wants to play at his best, but sometimes his frustration comes out in the wrong ways.
“I thought tonight he was unbelievable defensively, playing more tilted to the left. That kid Igor Juliao likes to bomb up and down the right wing and for the most part Thierry was right there with him and he was still making things happen going forward. When he’s like that, there’s not one person in this league that can stop him.”
Henry having this engaged approached could simply be chalked up to how important the match was for the Red Bulls, who started the night on the outside of the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture. But there was more behind it than that.
After seeing his club be frustratingly inconsistent all season, Henry approached head coach Mike Petke this week in training to have a conversation. The specifics of that talk were not made public by either Petke or Henry following Saturday’s triumph, but what came of it were positives that appear to resemble the ones that emanated from their long meeting last year following a heated confrontation in training.
“Thierry, true to who he is as a person and a captain, he sought me out and we had a long conversation,” said Petke. “Together we rededicated ourselves and tried to figure some stuff out. I told him, ‘Before, you showed what a captain is by coming to me earlier in the week and speaking about some things. Now, you’re going to show what a captain is on the field,’ and he did.”
“He led the team, he put tireless work in and he capped it off with a Goal of the Year nomination, for sure.”
The tally came in the 52nd minute. Henry received a pass from Lloyd Sam, burst by his mark and hit a screamer into the far top corner. Dom Dwyer responded two minutes later with a nice strike of his own, but the Red Bulls did enough to ensure that Henry’s world-class finish would stand as the winner.
Henry came off in the 89th minute, and while he could have been gassed given the hardworking shift he put in, he still had enough in the tank to berate fourth official Jose Carlos Rivero before and after the final whistle.
It was just another example of the kind of ambition that may well have rubbed off on the rest of Red Bulls in a week in which they absolutely needed an injection of enthusiasm.
“When he wants something, that’s when you start to see that everybody gets behind him and, this week, that’s what it’s all about,” said goalkeeper Luis Robles. “He was engaged, he was encouraging people, and he was just saying that it’s time to stop all the talk, it’s time to stop the excuses and let’s just go, let’s do it together.
“When he’s up in the front leading, no one, no one is going to slack off and that’s exactly what this week was about.”