PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s not an official farewell tour – at least not yet.
But, just in case, fans in the Rose City wanted to make sure the legend of Thierry Henry was properly feted Wednesday night at the AT&T MLS All-Star Game. The Providence Park crowd cheered for the New York Red Bulls star at every turn, during warm-ups, introductions, when he nearly scored what would have been a stunning goal in the 41st minute and especially when he was subbed off in the 47th minute – to a standing ovation before the All-Stars went on to a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich.
“It’s great, you know,” Henry told reporters in the postgame locker room. “The reception was great, and when I came out I didn’t expect that, but it really was amazing.”
An All-Star in each of his four seasons in MLS, the soon-to-be 37-year-old Henry certainly came out like it would be his last All-Star game.
He was one of the All-Star’s most active players early on, prodding his side forward under intense pressure from Bayern’s infamous high press. Along with fellow starters Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, with DeAndre Yedlin providing a speedy outlet on the right wing, Henry worked his way into two shots on the night.
“Like I said, Bayern Munich isn’t always easy,” he said. “They pressure really high, and at times it isn’t easy to bring it out. But we were kind of patient, and around 30 minutes into the game we started to do some build up and passing the ball on the ground. …That was the plan, that was what [head coach] Caleb Porter wanted us to do and that’s what we tried to do and at times it wasn’t easy. Like I said, it worked out today.”
Henry nearly added to his legend – born years ago with Arsenal and entrenched with the French national team – with a knuckling volley from approximately 25 yards out right before halftime. But the shot sailed just high.
“I'm so happy of the performance of Titi Henry,” said Bayern head coach Pep Guardiola, who coached Henry for two seasons at Barcelona. “He played and showed his huge talent. … It was an honor for me to train, to be his trainer. He helped me a lot in my first year or two years together, and in my first year in Barcelona he helped me a lot. And he was important part to help us win the treble. He's a very, very good guy. I'm happy for him because he deserves the best. I trained one of the best players in the world.”
Porter, like the rest of the soccer world, acknowledged that the game could very well be Henry’s last as an All-Star; he just doesn’t know. Henry said the two agreed before the match that he would be subbed out right after halftime.
“I felt he deserved that tribute to start the second half no matter what his future is,” Porter said. “He's been great for the league and he's done a lot for the sport in this country and has had a wonderful career and I felt he deserved this tribute.”
For good measure, Henry was asked after the game whether he would call it a career. For now, the story remains the same.
“Maybe, like I said, maybe not,” he said. “I haven’t decided yet.”