clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

It's a New Red Bulls in 2015 Without Thierry Henry

After the retirement of Henry after last season, the Red Bulls have changed their style to move on from the Frenchman.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Thierry Henry is a legend and Columbus Crew SC agrees.

"Thierry's one of the greatest in this sport and there's a lot of respect to him for all that he did," Crew SC forward Kei Kamara said. "Coming to MLS, being very respectful of the league and the players, and performing day in and day out."

"There's not many like him," Black and Gold head coach Gregg Berhalter said. "There's a handful of guys at that level and who have consistently been at the level and he's certainly one of them. I think it was an honor to have him in the league. I think he set a good standard and he's certainly missed."

It's only been two games for the New York Red Bulls - who take on Crew SC Saturday night - without Henry, who retired after the 2015 Major League Soccer season, but any team would miss a player who scored 51 goals and registered 42 assists in 122 games for the club.

"They are different [this year]," Berhalter said of the Red Bulls. "Obviously it's new personnel. I think any time you lose a guy with that much individual quality, you're going to get goal chances in a different way and that's what they're doing."

Instead of relying so heavily on one player, Henry, to provide scoring chances, New York is creating opportunities as a team. No longer is one player the focal point, but several, such as Dax McCarty and Lloyd Sam and newcomers Sacha Kljestan and Felipe Martins.

The player that likely benefitted the most from Henry's presence on the pitch was the 2014 MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips. The striker, who tied the league record for goals in a season with 27 a year ago, has to adjust to life without his former strike partner.

"[He makes it] a lot easier, a lot easier," Kamara said of playing with a playmaker like Henry. "When you find somebody that you have a good relationship with on the field, or somebody that reads the game a lot better than other guys, it just makes the game simple.

"They make you a better player."

It wasn't just the passes and assists Henry provided to Wright-Phillips last season, but the attention he drew from the opposition. While everyone respected the Englishman's ability in front of goal, they were scared of Henry's ability.

Wright-Phillips is out to prove that last year's scoring explosion - he had one goal in seven games in 2013 - was no fluke and he can get the job done without Henry. No. 14's movement was meant to receive the ball, but also to create space for his teammates.

"Thierry is a legend like I said, so when he steps on any field, everyone has to respect him and people get close to him," Kamara said. "So when you do do that, it opened a lot of space for Bradley Wright-Phillips last year. Obviously everyone saw how he performed last year."

Wright-Phillips certainly took advantage of that, but he was not the only one. Peguy Luyindula and Sam combined for nine goals a year ago, using the space created by Henry.

Despite his departure, the Red Bulls are off to a good starter. After an opening weekend 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City, New York returned home a week ago to a 2-0 win over D.C. United in front of their supporters.

The high pressure style and new additions have filled the void left by Henry so far, but will be tested this weekend against a Crew SC defense that shutdown Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley in their last outing. The defense will have to be stout again against Wright-Phillips, who Berhalter believes is one of the league's best.

"They still have Bradley Wright-Phillips, who I already talked about being one of the top three goal scorers in the league," he said. "Any time you have that, it's difficult."

Time brings all good things to an end and that is true with Henry's career. The Red Bulls have moved on and have found a way to replace his production so far. With that said, Berhalter and Crew SC are glad they don't have to worry about the Frenchman Saturday night.

"I'm probably relieved we're not playing against Henry again, but in the same sense, what they've been doing this year is pretty good," Berhalter said. "It's really good so we have to prepare for that and we know it's going to be a difficult challenge."