When it comes to NYC sports, is there any single player more capable of a dominant performance than a pissed off Thierry Henry? The New York Red Bulls captain took out his frustrations on opponents and teammates alike, contributing one goal and three assists in a 4-1 romp over the Columbus Crew on Saturday night.
Henry started his work early, putting a 17th-minute cross in to Bradley Wright-Phillips for an easy close range goal. The goal was BWP's league-leading 15th of the season, and with practically half a season left to play, it seems inevitable that the team's single season scoring record—Juan Pablo Angel's 19 goals in 2007—will tumble this year. Henry, at this point, seemed relatively pleased, jokingly remaining prone on the ground as his strike partner scored.
But Happy Henry never seems to last, especially given the Red Bulls' penchant for sloppy defending. Rookie defender Matt Miazga wiffed on an easy clearance, allowing the Crew's rookie striker Adam Bedell to power home his first ever MLS goal five minutes before halftime. Yet again, a perfectly good lead had vanished.
And so, as has happened more times than we can remember, Henry flipped the "World Class Rage" switch inside himself. After Bradley Wright-Phillips had a shot stopped by Steve Clark and a second attempt blocked away by a defender, the ball rolled towards a walking Henry. Henry barely broke his stride to place a shot perfectly into the far post. There was no celebration, just a long stare and four emphatic words in the direction of his defensive line: "Do your fucking job." (Our lip reading skills aren't great, but we're pretty sure about this one.)
The rage carried over into the locker room during halftime. "At halftime he was fuming," said goalkeeper Luis Robles after the match. "Just the way we were playing, we went up one-zero, we just gave up a bad goal...he was not happy. You know, we needed that. Because you need to shake it up. We’re on a bit of a run, but even on this run we’ve gotten lucky. It’s up to us to decide games and we’re not deciding games. In the second half we decided that game. So we need our captain, we need our leader to be emotional like that. The guys just fed off it."
The Red Bulls came out more organized in the second half, absorbing attacking pressure from the Crew and frustrating the visitors. Henry would pull the strings to add another goal in the 56th minute, playing a perfectly-weighted short pass to set up Lloyd Sam his second of the season. Henry put Sam through again with a beautiful through-ball twenty minutes later, but his attempted chip pinged off the post.
Columbus would continue to collapse, with their offense misfiring and their defense flailing. Bernardo Anor was sent off late in the match for kicking the ball at Chris Duvall after he had been fouled. Throwing bodies forward, they overcommitted on a late free kick, allowing Lloyd Sam to start a counter. Sam fed Henry, and Henry again placed a perfect pass, this time to Eric Alexander. In real time Alexander looked offside, but replays showed the timing of the pass was spot on, and Alexander easily beat Clark one-on-one to give the 4-1 scoreline.
Despite the large win, Henry's mood was barely improved after the match. "We have to defend better as a team, period. We’ve been doing that the whole season, conceding a goal like this. Enough is enough. We managed to come back today and a lot of times in so many games this year we couldn’t. I don’t think 4-1 was a deserved result for Columbus. They played well, they passed the ball well, in the second half we actually didn’t even touch it. But, today we scored and that changed the game. We cannot carry on giving goals away. We have to do better as a team, period."
The performance gives Henry the club's all-time record in assists (37 in 107 matches), but he refused to pat himself on the back after the match. "You guys know me, that’s not the sort of thing I’m thinking tonight. Like I said, you should always take better criticism when you win. We found ourselves so many times in this very dressing room, crying because we conceded so many goals that we shouldn’t have conceded because we didn’t defend well as a team. We managed to escape today. Let’s all be happy about it, but let’s also go home and think about how we conceded that goal. Another day, before the Philly game we maybe talk about [the record] but my mind is not on that right now."
The Red Bulls will travel to Philadelphia to face the Union on Wednesday before returning home for a Saturday match against the San Jose Earthquakes.