Monday Morning Gaffer: Oh Henry

French star's debut against Houston lifted everyone's level

The New York Red Bulls rolled out Thierry Henry for his first league match on Saturday night in Houston. It was a wild affair that saw a red card, two penalty kicks (one converted, one blown over the bar), four goals, and several open chances missed by Henry.
Four things to take away from Saturday’s win:

1. Oh, Henry: New York's new media darling got his first assist in league play, but despite the Red Bulls' man advantage and the two golden opportunities presented to him, Thierry Henry didn’t score. But, the Frenchman's importance beyond the assist on Juan Pablo Angel's opener can’t be overstated: His presence made the whole team click.

His quick touch, his passing and his movement made a huge difference. Angel had space to move up top, and Macoumba Kandji on the right wing and Joel Lindpere centrally had new channels to run into going forward.

2. No Kandji Letdown: After two scintillating performances in the Barclays New York Challenge, it would seem that Kandji would be primed for a letdown in league play, where he gets less space to operate than in a friendly. Factor in that he’d be playing on the wings where he’s pinned against the touchline and it would seem like Kandji would be in for a quiet game.

Instead, the Senegalese was very efficient in his performance from the flanks, moving forward well and playing great defense. He simply looked like a more mature player with Henry on the field.

3. Road Warriors: After going through all of last season without a win on the road, the Red Bulls now have three wins and two draws in their away kits this season. Even though they conceded a late equalizer, New York went into a hostile environment and didn’t back down one bit.

If there were any worry of a hangover from 2009’s last-place finish or the distraction of Henry joining the team, put those to rest. Head coach Hans Backe has done a wonderful job tactically with this team, setting them up on the road to be solid defensively and then spring counterattacks through Richards, Angel, and now Henry.

4. Tchani Power: After a solid showing against Tottenham and Manchester City, Tony Tchani made a statement in Saturday night’s game. His maturity, decision-making and work rate were impressive as he consistently tracked back and made plays as the team’s holding midfielder.

It was a solid and veteran-like performance from a young player who will face fierce competition for minutes when New York sign their third designated player this week.

Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs. He can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012