Henry-mania won't be a distraction, say Red Bulls players

Backe: Frenchman's arrival is not a disruption, only positive

MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Since Wednesday’s news that Thierry Henry officially joined the Red Bulls, the media buzz has been in overdrive. Much like David Beckham’s joining MLS three years ago, the media circus in the US and abroad is swirling.

Talk-show hosts are tweeting that they’ve landed an Henry interview. Celebrity pals are providing comment on the deal. TH14 was a massive trend on Twitter. And Facebook has become a virtual homage to the French international striker.

WATCH: Thierry Henry's presentation LIVE on MLSsoccer.com, Thursday, July 15 at 1:15

Beckham-mania seemed at times to overburden everyone involved, including Beckham’s LA Galaxy teammates, with outsized expectations and klieg-light distractions. The Red Bulls seem to have learned that lesson and club officials have vowed “the focus here is going to be the soccer first."

Defender Tim Ream told MLSsoccer.com this week that he had no concerns about Henry joining the team.

“We’ve been going through this how long now, four months? Maybe even longer, before I got here,” the rookie said. “We’re used to it. We’re used to the questions. Will it be a distraction? Absolutely not.”

The Red Bulls face the Columbus Crew in an away match on Saturday night in a battle of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. Henry will travel with the team and sit on the bench, but won’t play. For head coach Hans Backe, the organization’s focus on performance on the field is welcome news.

“I think it’s just positive that we get as much publicity as possible,” he said. “It’s positive for Red Bull, it is positive for Major League Soccer to get that type of player. So there’s no disruption at all, it’s only positive.”

The message has been received by the troops.

“We’re here to play football,” midfielder Joel Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re here to win games. Nothing else. Anything else doesn’t matter. We’re focused.”

Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012