NEW JERSEY, United States // Thierry Henry got into a New York state of mind for his Red Bulls debut, boarding a commuter train at the World Trade Center just hours before his first match. "I was on the train with my friends and with all the fans," the French forward said. "For me, it was the quickest way to come to the game, and that's how I came. It was cool."
Henry then coolly scored in his inaugural match for his new team, getting a goal midway through the first half of a 2-1 exhibition defeat on Thursday night at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur, the English Premier League team he enjoyed such a rivalry with during his time in London with Arsenal. "It was amazing to see the fans, walking with them to the stadium," he said. "I would say that the reception was tremendous every time I touched the ball."
Henry scored after Joel Lindpere, the Estonian international, played the ball through the legs of defender Alan Hutton, familiar to American fans for his confrontation last season with Jozy Altidore, the US forward. While on loan to Sunderland last April and playing against Hull City, Hutton threw the ball at Altidore, who responded with a butt that earned him a red card and a season-ending suspension.
Henry, the former Barcelona striker who signed with the Major League Soccer (MLS) side last week, cut in front of Verdan Corluka in the six-yard box in the 24th minute and put New York ahead when he slotted the cross past goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini. "He'll be a massive hit here in New York I'm sure," said Harry Redknapp, the Spurs manager. "He's a world-class player still. He could play on any team in the Premier League in England. He's still good enough."
Robbie Keane, tightly marked by Tim Ream, levelled the score in the 62nd minute, tapping the ball into an open net after Andros Townsend's corner kick was fumbled by Greg Sutton in the Red Bulls goal. Jeremy Hall headed a backpass in the 72nd minute under pressure from Gareth Bale, who intercepted and edged the ball past the dismayed goalkeeper. Henry, 32, France's all-time leading goalscorer with 51 goals, is the highest-profile player to join the MLS since David Beckham signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy three years ago. A World Cup and Euro 2008 winner with Les Bleus, and a Champions League winner with Barcelona, he lost his place in Barca's starting line-up last season and decided to move to New York, where he had long wanted to live.
"He was a tough player over there," Keane said. "I'm sure he'll be a tough player over here, as well." Playing his first match since France were eliminated from the World Cup in the group stages, Henry showed the lightning pace and scoring instincts that made him a star since he burst on to the scene with Monaco in the mid-1990s. He played the first half, and made some deft, quick exchanges with Lindpere.
Just as important for the Red Bulls, he helped draw a crowd of 20,312 - about 5,000 short of a sell-out - to the Red Bull Arena, the US$200 million (Dh735m) stadium that opened in March. Dan Courtemanche, an MLS spokesman, said Adidas is projected to sell 50,000 Henry Red Bulls jerseys this year, second in MLS history behind the 300,000 plus shirts sold bearing Beckham's name on Los Angeles Galaxy jerseys, when he arrived in 2007.
"This is a massive, massive impact for us," Hans Backe, the Red Bulls coach, said. "But to be realistic, too, one player can't change the team totally. He needs his teammates around him to feed him with the right killer passes." * AP