As expected, Thierry Henry’s status for Sunday is up in the air.
The New York Red Bulls will pay a visit to the New England Revolution on Sunday (5 pm ET, MLS LIVE), and Henry is anything but a shoo-in to play in the match due to the turf surface at Gillette Stadium. The Red Bulls captain has traditionally missed the bulk of games played on artificial pitches in recent years because of a chronic Achilles problem, and this weekend’s Eastern Conference tilt could be the latest to fall under that category.
“Nothing has been decided yet,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told reporters in his weekly conference call on Tuesday. “However, history does tell that he would usually not play on a surface like New England. There’s always a chance, but as of now we haven’t made any final decisions.”
There was also a chance that the match would be played on grass. A natural surface has been laid at Gillette Stadium for a Portugal-Mexico friendly on Friday night, but a Revolution spokesperson told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday that the grass will be removed before the New York match, as the Revs' technical staff had decided to play on the usual turf.
If Henry is rested in New York’s final game before the World Cup break, the club’s roster will be further weakened. Starters Tim Cahill and Roy Miller are currently away with their respective countries preparing for the World Cup, and midfield regular Dax McCarty was ruled out on Tuesday with a knee injury.
Being down a potential fourth starter – it could be five if center back Jamison Olave is held out to prevent him from playing on the artificial surface – would be a big blow for a Red Bulls team looking to snap a four-game winless streak. But Petke is well aware of the risks that could come from playing Henry on turf.
“He’s a guy that’s played 20-something years professionally and coming to MLS, it takes him weeks and weeks to recover after playing on those surfaces,” said Petke. “Plus he has an ailing history with his Achilles. It’s one of those things I said every year: You weigh the game against the season, and what’s more important?”
The Red Bulls captain's status for beyond this season is apparently also still up in the air. The 36-year-old forward is currently in the final year of his contract, but Petke said right now he does not know if Henry will return in 2015.
“We’ve talked many times about the future,” said Petke. “It’s early enough in the season that he has not given me an indication one way or the other. He’s feeling good, he’s playing well. As far as I’m concerned, anything could happen.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.