Frenchmen in MLS: The nine who preceded Henry
Thierry Henry becomes the 10th Frenchman to join an MLS club. Here are the nine who preceded him, in order of importance:
1. Youri Djorkaeff: The 1998 World Cup champion became the first Frenchman to play in MLS. He featured prominently for the MetroStars (2005) and Red Bulls (2006) and advanced to the postseason in both years before calling it a day. His 10 goals for the MetroStars in 2005 are still the most by a French player in MLS.
2. Sebastien Le Toux: "Seba" has become a cult hero at the expansion Philadelphia Union for his tireless work rate and career-high six goals thus far in 2010. The 26-year-old Rennes youth product and former Lorient player enjoyed productive seasons as a forward for the Seattle Sounders in the lower divisions before being employed as a winger for the Sounders in their inaugural MLS campaign in 2009.
3. Gilles Grimandi: We never knew ya, Gilles. Grimandi, another former Gunner, was signed by the Colorado Rapids in January 2003 with high expectations following a successful five-year stint with Arsenal. However, after spending preseason with the Rapids and playing one preseason match, Grimandi got homesick and made his return to France.
4. Laurent Robert: The former French National Team player was signed by Toronto FC for the 2008 season. After a promising start, during which his set-piece skills were especially useful, he became less effective over the course of his 17 matches with the club and TFC waived him in August 2008. He is widely remembered for his time with Newcastle United, where he moved in 2001 after several years in France with Montpellier and Paris St. Germain.
5. Laurent Merlin: The Marseille-born forward and former French National Team prospect joined Chivas USA in 2007 after a trial with the LA Galaxy, which he earned via an open tryout. He played 22 games for the Goats but only scored a single tally and was eventually released the following offseason.
6. Julien Baudet: The former Toulouse central defender spent several years in England’s lower divisions before joining the Colorado Rapids in the summer of 2009. The 31-year-old has played a total of nine games thus far this season.
7. Leandre Griffit: Before Henry, the 26-year-old midfielder had been the latest Frenchman to join the league. Although he signed with the Columbus Crew in May, his debut came just last week in the US Open Cup quarterfinals. A product of the Lens youth system, Griffit has played in France, England, Sweden and Belgium, but is yet to make his first MLS appearance.
8. Pascal Bedrossian: The Marseille native was coming off a serious injury when he joined the Chicago Fire at the end of the 2006 season. However, Bedrossian continued to be plagued by injury during his stay in Chicago and he was released in June 2007 after playing in just seven matches. The career highlight for the former French youth international was the 2002 Coupe de France triumph while with Lorient.
9. Elie Ikangu: Another player with an injury-riddled MLS career, the Paris-born defensive midfielder played a grand total of three matches in two seasons for the New York Red Bulls after being signed to a developmental contract in 2006. The Le Havre youth product was cut during the 2008 preseason.