Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day! Henry Signing Made Official!

This morning, the Red Bulls confirmed the worst-kept secret in world football when they officially announced the signing of Thierry Henry to a "multi-year" contract as the club's second designated player.  Henry will be formally introduced to the media tomorrow at Red Bull Arena in a press conference that will be streamed live on the club website, and he will suit up for the Red Bulls for the first time in the Barclays New York Challenge opener against Tottenham Hotspur on July 22.  We at the Viper's Nest would like to extend a warm welcome to Mr. Henry.  Any time you're interested in an exclusive interview we're all ears, Thierry!

The addition of Henry gives the Red Bulls the league's most formidable strike partnership.  Assuming that both players can manage to stay fit, the prospect of lining up against a combination of Juan Pablo Angel and Thierry Henry should keep a few MLS defenders up at night.  Of course there's still the question of service from midfield to resolve.  The "third DP" rumor mill has spun into overdrive this week, with Freddie Ljungberg's name joining that of Rafael Marquez.  Neither really fits the ideal profile of the creative central midfielder, though Ljungberg is much closer than Marquez.  On the other hand, based on recent evidence, Marquez seems to have more left in the tank than Ljungberg, whose form has been downright miserable for the Sounders this season.  Marquez would also be a bigger box office draw, one would assume.  Complicating matters could be the story in Spanish media this morning that Barcelona have slapped a 7 million Euro price tag on Marquez. Watch this space.

Without a creative presence in midfield or, failing that, a revamped midfield formation, the Red Bulls could still struggle for offense, despite the wealth of talent up front.  And though the Henry signing has been blowing up on Twitter today and garnering a hefty chunk of media attention, I still question the way in which the Henry introduction has been handled, a point I made yesterday in my All Things Footy column.  If the full page ad in today's New York Times is followed by a sustained media and ad blitz - and coupled with some on-field success - I'll start to breathe easier.  Until then, I'm in agreement with Shep Messing that the longer-term impact on attendance, the profile of the club in the New York market and the fanbase is hard to predict.

As Tim mentioned yesterday when he ran down the roster, the addition of Henry and potentially a third DP player has implications for those Red Bulls players currently under contract.  As it stands now, someone will have to be cut to make way for Henry.  Who gets the ax?
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