It took the better part of nine months, but finally, in New York’s 4-0 rout of D.C. United on Thursday night, the Thierry Henry that Red Bulls fans had been waiting to see finally exploded onto the scene.
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The French star’s double and assist in New York’s thorough win at RFK Stadium was the embodiment of what New York expected when they signed Henry in July 2010, not the player hampered by injuries who only managed two goals in his first year in MLS.
New York head coach Hans Backe had called Henry’s performance in a 3-0 win over San Jose last week the striker’s best so far as a Red Bull. His display against DC easily tops that, and having a hand in three of his team’s goals only helps build on a confidence that never wavered, even as Henry struggled to find the back of the net earlier in the season.
“I think as long as he’s playing and feeling fit, he will always be fine,” assistant coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen told MLSsoccer.com. “He never lost his confidence in himself.”
Last year, fans and the media anticipated that Henry would steamroll through MLS. Joining an already solid New York club, Henry immediately started to whet the appetite of everyone watching when he scored in his debut in a friendly against EPL side Tottenham.
Henry, though, would go on to struggle with fitness and injuries and never found his form in 2010. Even this year, he has battled hamstring issues and a chronic Achilles injury early on.
But over the past two games, the prolific striker has found his magic touch because, it seems, he’s finally injury-free.
“He can run 100 percent now,” Halvorsen said. “He’s moving. He went for the runs we know he can make, he wants to make.”
In his first goal against DC, for example, Henry made a darting 30-yard run to come up unmarked near the penalty spot to head home a Jan Gunnar Solli cross in the 12th minute.
Then, in the 38th, Henry hovered around the top of the box until he found the opportunity to streak in and hammer home a Solli ball that begged for a finish.
To cap his performance, the forward calmly controlled a deep ball from defender Rafa Márquez inside the center line and then flicked a pass to Joel Lindpere, who would go on to add New York’s third goal in the 76th.
Now that he’s healthy, the Red Bulls are enjoying the full value that is Henry.
“I think it’s a lot with the health issue definitely [making him play better] because if you have some pain, you can’t be as explosive as you want to and you can’t run the way you want to,” Backe told reporters after the match.
Given the fact that in a six-day span, Henry went from being scoreless on the season to being tied for second in the league in goals is great news for New York: The real Henry, the one every one expected, has arrived.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer