VANCOUVER, B.C. — Stop Thierry Henry and you stop the New York Red Bulls.
That’s the message the Vancouver Whitecaps have been preaching this week as they prepare to face the Red Bulls on Saturday night (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Henry, who leads the league with 12 goals this season and has added four assists, wasn’t there when the teams previously met in a 1-1 draw at Empire Field on May 28.
“Whenever you’re playing a team, they’ve got one or two guys that make it go for them, and [Henry] makes them go,” Vancouver’s Peter Vagenas told MLSsoccer.com after training on Thursday. “So it’s important at all times that we keep an eye on him. He’s going to drift all over the field; whoever is near him has to make sure they follow him and chase him off one-twos and make other guys beat us.
“If Henry ends up with one goal and two assists, we’ve failed,” he added. “If their production comes from elsewhere, we’ll walk off the field and shake their hands.”
While the Red Bulls are going through a rough patch as part of a seven-game winless streak in MLS play, Henry has maintained his strong form with three goals in his last five appearances.
“He’s shown all season that he can hurt you,” ‘Caps captain Jay DeMerit said. “He’s still leading the league in scoring and he can hurt you with a pass as well as a goal. So we’re going to have to be aware of him.”
Whitecaps head coach Tom Soehn isn’t convinced Henry is putting in the same level of effort he did during the height of his career while playing with Arsenal and Barcelona, but feels the Frenchman is still capable of causing problems.
“He’s still got the qualities that have made him successful,” Soehn said. “You give him a chance and he’ll bury it. He doesn’t have the same work ethic he had, but ultimately he’ll check into spaces. He can run by you, he can thread a ball, so you have to be very sure to limit his touches and make sure that when he does get on [the ball], you’re covering him real tight.”
Camilo Sanvezzo is available for the Whitecaps on Saturday after serving a one-match suspension for yellow-card accumulation against the Houston Dynamo. He’s scored five goals on the road this season.
Davide Chiumiento, meanwhile, is listed as questionable for the match due to illness, but got through practice on Thursday.
Third-string goalkeeper and US Under-20 international Brian Sylvestre had the meniscus removed from his left knee on Tuesday, which is the same operation forward Atiba Harris had recently. There’s no timeline for his return.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.