WASHINGTON – Despite Thierry Henry’s slow start to his 2011 MLS season, Ben Olsen and the D.C. United coaching staff knew that containing the striker was vital to succeed against New York on Thursday evening.
Pitted against central defenders Dejan Jakovic and Perry Kitchen, Henry had to be contained in order to get something out of this game. However, things went off the rails early, and the Red Bulls striker’s two goals were the catalyst in a 4-0 humbling loss on home soil.
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“We didn’t do a good enough job on Thierry in the first half,” Olsen told reporters after the game. “We let him make the game. We worked on dealing with that and I didn’t think we did a good job with him.”
Red Bulls right back Jan Gunnar Solli set up Henry’s first goal. Solli found plenty of space on the right flank and, with more than enough time to send in a picture-perfect cross, found Henry unmarked between DC defenders Chris Korb and Jakovic.
Henry rose, took aim, and fired in a nice header past DC ‘keeper Bill Hamid.
“He’s a great player,” rookie defender Perry Kitchen said of the Frenchman. “He’s smart. He knows how to find gaps and make space for himself, and he showed that tonight.”
Henry found room again in the 38th minute. Solli was the architect once more, getting past defender Marc Burch to send in a low trickling cross powered home for Henry’s and New York’s second goal of the game.
“[Henry] had too much space to make the game,” Olsen said.
Along with scoring those two goals, Henry’s style – checking back into the midfield – threw United’s back line off.
“We had to deal with Henry checking back into the middle. At times we weren’t sure to step and make the center back one-on-one or if we should go with him,” Jakovic said.
With a two-goal deficit at the break, Olsen went to his bench, subbing in Branko Boskovic for Dax McCarty, throwing numbers forward to try and get United back in the game. That one proved costly, as Henry played a hand in the third goal, punishing DC once again.
“They’re a good team,” Olsen said. “If you make mistakes, they’ll punish you. They’ve got guys that know how to punish you.”
All was not lost for Olsen after the game, who was proud of the effort despite the score line.
“I was proud they didn’t quite at 2-0, 3-0, even 4-0. The guys worked their tails off, and the second half I thought we were unlucky [not] to get something out of it,” he said. “It’s a tough night. We need to stay together. This is a process, and, right now, [New York are] a better team than we are.”