What a happy homecoming for Thierry Henry.
Ok, so this wasn’t a real trophy, it was just a preseason round-robin. It’s not like the NY Red Bulls will be content if this is the only silverware they win this year.
But, while the rest of MLS was busy hosting (and getting demolished in) friendlies with European super-teams and the World Football Challenge, the Red Bulls were actually beating some high class opposition.
Away from home.
Across an ocean.
The Emirates Cup, which Arsenal have hosted for years (and basically win every time) is a four-team round robin tournament, where each club plays two games. That’s it. No big deal.
After beating French monster Paris St. Germain on Saturday, who have recently been bough by a cash-rich Qatari prince, the Red Bulls drew home-team Arsenal 1-1 on Sunday. No matter that the Red Bulls were in midseason form while their opponents are in the final stages of preparation for their new season. This was PSG and Arsenal.
On Saturday, Joel Lindpere scored the game’s only goal in the 27th minute with a nice finish, to lead the Red Bulls to a surprise 1-0 win against PSG. While the French had the edge in possession, they managed only a few half-chances, and the Red Bulls entered Sunday’s clash against Arsenal needing only a draw to hoist the trophy in their first-ever appearance in the competition.
And despite Arsenal’s utter domination, and I mean the gulf in class between the two teams was staggering, the hosts could only manage a first half goal from Robin Van Persie. With time ticking away, and Arsenal seemingly content to cruise to the slim-margin win, manager Arsene Wegner tried to get Henry to play for the Gunners for the final five minutes of the match.
After all, Henry had received a heroes welcome at the beginning of the match. The reception was all the more fitting, and heart-warming, considering Henry must be considered one of the greatest strikers ever to don the Arsenal White and Red.
But the referees said no, and instead Henry orchestrated the Red Bull equalizer in the 84th minute when he slid a magnificent through ball to Roy Miller, who was crashing the box after a botched corner kick. The right-back’s ensuing cross was redirected into the Aresnal net by one of their own defenders, and the game ended a 1-1 draw.
As Arsenal was booed off the field by their own fans, who are all too aware of their team’s shortcomings stemming back to their second-half collapse last season and six-year-running trophy drought, Henry reveled in the English limelight one last time.
Oh, and for those of you that aren’t convinced Henry is worth your ticket and think he is just an aging start looking for one last paycheck? Just check out this goal he scored last week to earn a 2-2 draw against FC Dallas. After a game where his team struggled getting him the ball for 85 minutes, Henry, who had shown his frustrations throughout the match, proved in one moment why he is the MLS leading scorer and all-around biggest boss man in the league. He collected a cross at the top of the box, made three defenders jump when faking a shot with his right before crossing it back to his left where he deposited a curling shot into the top corner. All around brilliant.
Go watch him play. Immediately.