HARRISON, N.J. – Thierry Henry did not have the look of a player who is dealing with an injury on Saturday, but hurt he was as he stepped onto the field at Red Bull Arena to inject some life into the New York Red Bulls.
Henry did just that and more, as he fought through the pain from the MCL sprain he picked up two weeks ago and delivered the goal that gave the Red Bulls a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union and ended their winless start to the season.
Scoring the winner is always the perfect scenario for a substitute player, but what made Henry’s classy 81st-minute strike even more impressive was that the 35-year-old did so while still recovering from a knee knock that was supposed to keep him out until the early parts of next week.
“I’m still not 100 percent. That’s why I couldn’t start,” Henry, who entered the match in the 59th minute, told reporters postgame. “We did agree with [head coach Mike Petke] to not put me out there right from the start. I said to him if it’s 20 minutes [that I play] I’ll try to give my best or if it’s five, if it’s one minute.
“I’m still not at the best with my knee, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. At the end of the day, the most important thing was the win, no matter who would’ve have scored.”
As it turned out, it was Henry who donned the hero’s cape for the Red Bulls once again.
With nine minutes left to play and shortly after hitting a spectacular bicycle kick that just missed the mark, Henry made a perfect run in between Union center backs Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke and brought down a lofted ball from Peguy Luyindula with his thigh. He then proceeded to turn and shoot, two aspects of his game that he said earlier in the week were causing him pain.
It was the type of finish that New York had been lacking earlier against Philadelphia and one that showed just how dedicated Henry is to helping the Red Bulls.
“We started the week knowing he wasn’t healthy enough to start the game but we knew he could come in and change the game,” said Juninho. “He showed, once again, how important he is to us.”