New York Red Bulls' Managing Director Erik Soler and newly-acquired Thierry Henry walk off the pitch at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ Thursday, while Head Coach Hans Backe looks on. (photo by Howard Megdal)
See SBNation's Once A Metro for more on the Red Bulls.
The discussions in Friday's papers are certain to surround the newest New York Red Bull Thierry Henry''s fitness, love of New York, and personality. Missing will be a very simple truth: If Hans Backe, the head coach at RBNY, can't design a scheme and acquire players to deliver the ball to Henry, no amount of creativity on his part will matter.
For those who follow the New York Knicks, think of the difficulties Patrick Ewing had on nights when the guards would have trouble feeding the ball inside. And Ewing, at least, could take matters into his own hands to a greater degree, thanks to the many rebounds in any basketball game.
But the clearest sign that Henry is part of a long-term design for success came from Backe, who made it clear that he knows just how much more the Red Bulls need to field the world class team worthy of a striker like Henry and a venue like Red Bull Arena.
Backe jumped at the chance to tout the need for a creative midfielder when we discussed the matter.
"No player can do it by himself, even someone who is among the best in the world," Backe said, standing in the back corner of a crowded media room at Red Bull Arena Thursday afternoon. "The next step, in a way, has to be an attacking midfielder. To build a team, it has to be a creative midfielder."
Backe spoke about "the final pass", something that would only enhance the production of Juan Pablo Angel as well. The current Red Bulls striker, who Backe says will play alongside Henry, has been prolific this season in relatively limited scoring opportunities--second in MLS in goals, in fact. So Backe is talking about a piece that would enhance two of the most valuable parts of his team. Still, to hear him describe it so bluntly was refreshing.
As for the means and timing for such a figure, Backe said he sees the likely route as a transfer from outside the league.
"It has been a little bit disappointing with the trading possibilities," Backe said. "We have tried with three, four clubs in the MLS, but it doesn't seem possible to trade. So that's why you probably have to buy a player outside of the U.S."
But, even though rumors are swirling that the Red Bulls will make another big signing, Backe thinks it likely that the missing piece will have to wait until after this season.
"I think for next season, we will have to wait for that kind of player," Backe said. "We have to look at our salary caps, too. It's not realistic for the last five months here." He added that a third DP would likely be "a center midfielder, not a creative number 10."
But Backe has redoubled his efforts here and throughout the team. It seems that his difficulty in engineering a trade had him eager to find young domestic talent as well. For Backe, success will be measured by success within MLS, rather than internationally.
"To me, success would be winning a title every second year," Backe said.
With Thierry Henry, RBNY is that much closer to his goal. But just as clearly, Backe's plan starts, rather than ends here.
"You can never be sure," Backe said of Henry guaranteeing success. "There's no guarantee, even if we brought in Leo Messi. But he is so experienced, that he can help the players around him to lift the game."