Saturday, June 11, 2011

Is Thierry Henry The Best In MLS?

There has always been something about Henry, an aura of brilliance, a gloss of magnificence. Now in the twilight days of his career, the Frenchman is continuing to shine with the New York Red Bulls, raising the question, is Henry the best in MLS?

With seven goals this campaign, Thierry Henry sits one behind Landon Donovan on the goal scoring charts, but with the American away on Gold Cup duty, Henry may well catapult himself up to first. Last night, with the Red Bulls in desperate need of inspiration, Henry shone brightly, scoring the winning goal with a classic bit of skill.

Picking up the ball on the wing, Henry accelerated into space, before slowing down enough to cut past a defender and sweep the ball past helpless goalkeeper Matt Reis. Only Henry could have pulled such a goal out of the hat at such a crucial time for the New York Red Bulls, only Henry.

Now back on top of the Eastern Conference, the Red Bulls are surely set to cruise into the playoffs; having snapped their winless streak they will be ready to kick on. In a few weeks, international absentees will return too; Hans Backe must be counting the minutes until the day he will be able to drop inept defender Steven Keel. From there, the form of Henry will be crucial to deciding how the 2011 Major League Soccer season is remembered by Red Bulls fans, if Henry can stay hot in the playoffs, then New York will have the opportunity to finally lift their first MLS Cup.

Many would argue that Henry needs a trophy, and a consistent run without injury, before he is dubbed the finest that Major League Soccer has to offer, but I disagree, the season so far has presented enough evidence for a verdict to be had, and I have come to one.

In a year that has been marred by nil-nil draws and horrific injuries, there have been several sources of beauty in MLS. There was Portland's home opener, played in pouring rain, the war of words between Dallas and Houston, and the terrific advert for MLS which was New York's match away in Los Angeles. Stars like Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Teemu Tainio, Cam Weaver, Carlos Ruiz, Ugo Ihemeulu, Break Shea and Fabian Castillo to name but a few have all produced moments of excellence in 2011, but for me, none have been quite so good as Thierry Henry.

Players like Davis, Chumiento and Beckham have been the kings of the assist and men like Donovan and Davies pretenders to the goal scoring crown, but remember, all their successes come with disclaimers. Donovan and Davies have scored a combined six penalties this season, while Henry has only taken one; a miss on opening night against Seattle. Nor has Henry dominated set piece duties like Beckham and co., the Frenchman is not a player who lives by a currency of assists.

Unlike Davies, Henry has been a consistent goalscorer all season long, finding the net against minnows like San Jose and big guns LA. Henry has dominates so many games this year, forging a strike partnership with Luke Rodgers, he has caused defenses myriads of problems with his movement alone.

Every time I see the Red Bulls play, it is crystal clear who the best player on the pitch is; even at the ripe old age of thirty-three, Henry is head and shoulders above the rest. Every one of his touches is immaculate, his vision superb and his pace still greater than players two thirds his age. Henry is at the center of every New York attack, and is the outstanding candidate for this year's MVP award. There is something distinctly more classy about Thierry Henry than men like Landon Donovan. Donovan is an undoubted master of this league, but he is incapable of producing moments of pure genius, ones that Henry conjures every Saturday.

For Thierry Henry, this season in Major League Soccer has been one of redemption. Redemption against those who criticized him so heavily following last year's playoff exit, redemption against those who questioned his commitment and redemption against those doubtful of the usefulness of DPs. With his performances both statistically and intangibly effective, Henry has proved to the World he is not finished yet, not by a long shot.

Read more by "The Chairman," David Yaffe-Bellany @ Red Flag Flying High and EPL Talk

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