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Henry, Backe have plan to beat the heat during key stretch

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls have three games in the next seven days, and it seems likely that star striker Thierry Henry will begin at least one of those contests on the bench.

It’s not his lingering calf issue, but the accumulated fatigue that comes from playing in the humidity and heat that has head coach Hans Backe wary about overtaxing Henry. New York first host Seattle on Sunday (4 pm ET; ESPN, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com) before taking on the Chicago Fire in a rare 1 pm kickoff next Wednesday and the Philadelphia Union on July 21 at 2:30 pm.

Backe said Friday that rotating players during that tough summer stretch would probably be the way to approach it, and Henry appears to agree despite wanting to start in every one of those games.

“I want to play the three games and see how it is, but you also got to think in terms of injuries,” Henry told reporters. “We lost a lot of guys recently at the end of games. We lost Rafa [Marquez] the other day like 10 minutes to go in the game against D.C. [United], Heath [Pearce versus Toronto FC].

“A lot of guys are dropping at the end of the game. Is it because of the heat? Is it because of the schedule? I don’t know but you need to think about it. I mean the boss is in charge of it, but hopefully I will be available for the three games.”

Henry also talked about how hot Red Bull Arena can get during the summer. Very little air flows through the soccer-specific stadium due to the structure of its roof, and that can make for sweltering conditions.

“With the heat, it’s crazy, especially in the stadium,” said Henry. “I don’t know if you felt it, it feels like someone does it on purpose or something. It’s kind of way hotter there. The stadium keeps the heat, I don’t know what it is but we’re going to have to see how it is.”

While Henry may be cautious playing in the heat, he does not hide his dislike of playing on turf. Henry missed this past Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium due to its turf surface, and that might be the approach the Red Bulls take with their star striker going forward.

“That is the worst thing for any athlete, playing on turf,” said Henry. “I mean no disrespect to the guys playing in the NFL and all of that. They are on the field for one, two seconds sometimes for a play. We run for one-and-a-half hours. That’s not an easy one.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.