Think about the task facing Thierry Henry Thursday night in Harrison, NJ. Touted as the savior of MLS (a league, by the way, that doesn't need saving-Red Bulls attendance was up 42 percent this year before Henry's arrival), he was expected to play at a level that justified the hype, on less than 10 days of training, in 45 minutes (it has been announced that he'd only play half the game).
Astoundingly, he delivered.
Understand, a player can perform at an elite level and not score a goal. Leo Messi, the best player in the world, had a good World Cup for Argentina - but he did not score a goal.
Henry seemed to make certain his debut had the flair worthy of his career, and moreover, of New York itself.
From his surreal walk from the PATH train - one I coincidentally got to tag along with, my timing being accidentally impeccable- to his every move on the pitch (at least before he tired around the 30-minute mark), Henry gave the Red Bulls fans a taste of what life is to be like in the new era for soccer at Red Bull Arena.
Poor Juan Pablo Angel. All he's done is lead the Red Bulls in scoring - he's second in the league, in fact - and a sprained ankle kept him out of action in Thursday night's 2-1 loss to Tottenham. Incidentally, those Angel number nine jerseys were way down in the corner, beneath all those 14s, at concession stands all over the stadium.
Angel will be a terrific strike pairing with Henry, of course (perhaps as soon as Sunday against Manchester City). Whether Man City responds by buying the pair on the spot remains to be seen.
But while it was Henry's speed that usually led discussions about him early in his career, his technical footballing cannot be ignored. And it was the subtlety to his game that had no rust - Henry simply needs to get into shape for a full 90, something he is well on his way to doing.
Asked after the game what his celebration had been about, he responded, "I'm here. That's what I'm saying. I'm here. It's good to be here."
Red Bulls fans, and fans of the beautiful game all over the United States, have reason to agree.
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