Thierry Henry may or may not extend his contract with Red Bull New York, but he opted out of the human race a long time ago. As expected, with his MLS deal expiring at the end of this season and the possibility of tonight — a 2-0 playoff victory over archival D.C. United — being his final home game, the retirement talk for The King is at high volumes. As if to tell the world that he could hear us talking, or that he’s read every word, Henry delivered his most important performance of the season in the new distributor role he’s been perfecting all year.
Despite the legendary striker only attempting two shots, Henry was the clear man of the match. He assisted on both of New York’s goals in ways so luxurious that the Vines arrived on your timeline in a purple velvet bag.
God bless this man. If anyone has kids they don’t want, I will adopt them, name them all Theirry (regardless of gender) and raise them in the ways of His French Majesty.
This goal was a snapshot of everything that has gone right for New York this season (when it does go right). The awareness and confidence (arrogance) of Henry to try a backheel, knowing he had teammates waiting. The “soccer IQ” of Peguy Luyindula — who started over Tim Cahill and had a noteworthy game of his own — opting for the dummy (the official soccer move of 2014) that sucked in both defender Chris Korb and goalkeeper Bill Hamid. The finish from the overly criticized Golden Boot winner, Bradley Wright-Phillips. It was a dream sequence that highlighted the best characteristics of New York’s most important offensive players.
Henry’s second assist came from a deeper position on the field. He’s transformed from lead striker, to frustratingly deep-lying striker, to “Is he a central midfielder now,” to incredibly effective attacking winger, all within one season year.
His new role is the prime argument against his retirement. Red Bulls fans would be more than OK with Henry becoming their version of Pirlo or Riquelme, the old man sending passes that somehow seem to carry wisdom and give you a knowing nod as they fly 30 yards to their target. Passes that slip you 20 bucks and tell you to take that girl you like to the movies. No, that pass doesn’t know how much movies cost anymore, but that doesn’t matter.
At that moment, he probably looked at the scoreboard, said to himself “It’s like I told you, two goals are better than one,” used some kind of French mind-melding technique with Luyindula to time a perfect run, and dropped a gem on ’em like Mobb Deep in 1996. Bow to your King!
Assuming this is Henry’s final season, the Red Bulls will have to preserve their two-goal lead at RFK Stadium. Given D.C.’s place at the top of the East’s standings, New York’s tendency toward road implosion, and whatever phantom or superstition you believe prevents Red Bull from being successful, advancing isn’t a given.
Hopefully, as many people as possible, MLS fans or not, will tune in to see that the player they remember hasn’t faded. Instead, he’s learned a new set of impressive tricks.