MLS gets stronger as Arsenal legend goes Stateside

By on July 15, 2010

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By Ashley Mann.

Former Arsenal captain and all-time leading goalscorer Thierry Henry has joined the New York Red Bulls on a ‘multi-year’ contract. Henry, 32, had 12 months remaining on his Barçelona contract, but the Catalan club has agreed to allow him to leave on a free. He told the US press,

“It is an honour to play for the New York Red Bulls.

“I am fully aware of the team’s history and my sole goal during my time here is to help win the club its first championship.”

Henry had fallen behind Pedro Rodríguez and Bojan Krkic at Camp Nou, and played only 53 minutes of a France’s catastrophic World Cup campaign. Although undoubtedly in the winter of his career, some would argue Henry could still play at a high level in Europe.

He has, however, chosen to end his career in the MLS, a league that is suddenly making real strides. Big name captures like Henry, David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg obviously help attract European attention, but the impressive performances of the national team have now started to get the US public onside too. This is something Sir Alex Ferguson spoke about about earlier today,

“There is no doubt American soccer is starting to make an impact. It has certainly improved.

“The MLS is definitely getting stronger, I have spoken to many people over the last few months about it. There is a big upsurge

Henry, who scored a record 226 goals for Arsenal and 51 for France, is set to partner ex-Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel in New York and Red Bulls fans must surely expect goals galore from what is now easily the league’s deadliest duo. Whether that will be enough to appease New York’s considerable Irish contingent is still to be seen.

Do you think this is the right move? Let us know in the comments below.

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4 Comments

  1. Ryan

    July 15, 2010 at 11:45 am

    It’s not that the MLS is a good league, it’s because America is a nice place to live and the fact that the teams pay players like henry stupid amounts of money for little effort they put into the game. I like to think of it as a last big money pay off before retirement.

    • Ashley Mann

      July 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm

      I have no doubt that Henry has been attracted by the celebrity lifestyle New York offers, but the fact remains the league is stronger for his arrival.

      Remember the early days of the Premier League? The only foreign stars who came to play their football here were 30+ and looking for one final pay-day (Thomas Brolin anyone?). But with their arrival the league got stronger, and consequently better, younger players arrived.

      It’s almost unbelievable to think that on the Premier League’s first day, there were only 11 foreign players altoghether…

  2. Joel

    July 15, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    The level of play in MLS is generally comparable to that of mid-table Championship teams. This season, the LA Galaxy is raising the bar with exciting technical play that is a cut above the rest of the league. Interestingly, this improvement on the pitch has little to do with Beckham, who has impacted marketing more than football.

    Most incoming foreign players underestimate the fitness levels of MLS players, who play in the summer heat where 100 degree (F) temperatures are not unknown. Plus North America is B–I–G and the travel can be grueling. The distance from Boston to Los Angeles is 3,000 miles: almost twice the distance from London to Moscow. New players quickly learn that the MLS is physical, and many MLS players seem to have more upper body strength than their European counterparts.

    Also, even the worst MLS goalkeepers are competent shot blockers. Maybe it’s the eye-hand-coordination that is taught to American kids with baseball and basketball. Maybe the required self-belief for a goalkeeper matches the American temperament. Whatever the cause, the MLS is filled with big, quick and athletic keepers. Want to score in the MLS, Thierry? Then you’ll need some good service from the wings.

    Overall, the MLS is not as bad, or as good, as you may have heard. I fear that the play may not suit a finesse player like Henry.

  3. Englishman in New York

    July 20, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    No disrespect Joel, but if Henry can shine in Premier League (the most physical league in Europe), i’m sure he will be able to manage all that the MLS offers!

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