Prior to his bizarre red card in the New York Red Bulls' away match against Sporting Kansas City on Sautrday, the case for Thierry Henry as MLS MVP was a fairly convincing one. Now, the fact that he will be unavailable to the team he captains just when they need him most has thrown a wrench in the works. Still, Iet's give it a go...
Henry started the season slow, so much so that many Red Bulls fans began to experience Designated Player buyer's remorse. The home match against the San Jose Earthquakes in mid-April, turned everything around. Having missed a number of easy goalscoring chances before going down to the turf with a second half knock, Henry became the target of some booing at Red Bull Arena. Just minutes later, however, a wonderful flying header sealed the victory for RBNY and help propel the club toward its most successful spell of the season.
Henry patched things up with supporters and went on to score two goals the following week against DC United. The doubts about his appetite for MLS were answered, and from then on - when available for selection - Henry has provided a number of key goals at key moments for New York, perhaps none bigger than his last-gasp long range strike against Dallas at home in July. He has demonstrated moments of pure skill that few players, if any, in MLS can match. Witness his jaw dropping bit of invention against Toronto FC at BMO Field, which earned New York (what else?) another draw, but a crucial one for the team's playoff aspirations.
None of Henry's 14 goals have come from the penalty spot, while fellow MVP candidates Dwayne DeRosario, Landon Donovan and Sebastian Le Toux have "padded" their stats with four penalties each. Moreover, only a single Red Bulls victory this season - the away game at Pizza Hut Park - has been achieved without Henry in the lineup. Admittedly, Henry has also gone missing several times during the course of the season. His absences from games played on FieldTurf, with the exception of the Portland match at Jeld-Wen Field, have often been explained away with minor leg injuries, only for Henry to bounce back with a 90-minute effort and a goal or two the following week. Harder to explain is the fact that he did not travel to San Jose or Houston. When he has been in the New York lineup, however, Henry has played the full 90-plus minutes with only three exceptions: a late tactical substitution at RFK, the injury time sending off in Portland, and the 28th minute red card in Kansas City.
In summary, there's a lot to like about Henry's MVP candidacy: crucial goals, quality finishing, flair and an ability to carry his team when they've needed it most. These positives are perhaps offset by an excessive number of road games missed, two utterly bizarre red cards, a reputation for chippy - some would say dirty - play and the Red Bulls' general underachievement. But that doesn't mean that Henry shouldn't be considered for MVP honors. If RBNY ends up making the playoffs and progressing beyond October, Thierry Henry will be the biggest reason why.