Thursday, March 24, 2011

That Didn't Take Long: Henry to Miss Columbus Match

The Red Bulls' away match this weekend in Columbus - already a challenge because of multiple RBNY international callups - just became a little more challenging today when Thierry Henry revealed that he has not yet recovered from a hamstring strain suffered early in Saturday's season opener against Seattle. The hamstring issue might help explain his performance over the 90 minutes vs. Seattle, which was sub-par by his lofty standards.

Only a fool would advocate a player endangering his health or his team's long term prospects by playing while injured. On the other hand, fans were given assurances during preseason that they would see a different TH14 this year after he spent the winter recharging his batteries. To lose a player of his caliber after just one match doesn't bode well for the remainder of the season. If Henry can't withstand the rigors of March, how can we realistically expect him to maintain his fitness for an entire season?

As you can tell from the Big Apple Soccer piece linked above, Henry seemed annoyed when asked about the possible relationship between his age and hamstring problems, claiming that he was one of a staggering nine Red Bulls players dealing with similar issues. Be that as it may, his response to what was a legitimate question seemed unnecessarily petulant and might betray some frustration beginning to creep in.We can only hope that Henry will recover in time for the next home match, against Houston on April 2.

In the meantime, Hans Backe, missing five players as well as Henry, will have to piece together a lineup for Columbus. At the back he can rely on veterans such as Danleigh Borman and Carlos Mendes, but up front it's another story.  One option would be to start Luke Rodgers alongside rookie Corey Hertzog, but Backe stated in recent interviews that Rodgers is not yet fully match fit and he ruled out Hertzog as an option as recently as this week. Of course, the Henry situation may have forced him to reconsider. Mehdi Ballouchy, who had a poor game against the Sounders as a central attacking midfielder, might also be shifted up front.

Saturday will be a massive test of the Red Bulls' squad depth. If they can manage to squeeze a point out of this match it will a job well done by Backe and company.
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