Henry nears full fitness for NY's season opener

Long preseason gives Designated Player time to nurse '10 injuries

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UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Thierry Henry would have preferred a complete MLS preseason last year, but circumstances and necessity conspired against the Frenchman.

Without the benefit of acclimation and time to get fit — Henry joined the Red Bulls midseason — the Designated Player scored just twice and battled injuries throughout his debut season.

However, after some offseason rest and with a good chunk of this campaign's preseason now complete, the Frenchman is pleased with his form and fitness.

“Way better,” Henry said of how he feels compared to last year. “As you can imagine, I’m still not there, but I can feel my body better.”

Henry can only look back at last July, when he played 90 minutes in his league debut at Houston, and wish he had this type of preparation last year.

Now with the team set to depart for Arizona on Tuesday for another round of friendly matches under the unforgiving sun of the Southwest, Henry said he’s doing well and that the extended MLS preseason is a blessing. While he was with former clubs Arsenal and Barcelona, he was used to just a month of preseason.

“[It's] way different," Henry said. "In Europe you had one month. Here, you have two month, but you don’t want to kill yourself too early.”

With an eye towards the March 19 season opener at Red Bull Arena against Seattle, Henry is more than optimistic that he will be fit and in form for First Kick. He said going 90 minutes in the opener “is my goal.”

“I think I’ll probably be ready for that,” Henry said. “That’s what you do in preseason, you grow week to week.”

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer