Thierry Henry is looking forward to his first trip to Columbus, even though the New York Red Bulls’ latest signee will not dress for Saturday’s match against the Crew.
“I’m coming to watch the game, feel the vibe and be with my teammates,” said Henry, who signed a multi-year contract Wednesday. “I’ve never been to Columbus. I’ve been to Cleveland, but I heard [Columbus] is not far away.”
The 32-year-old French standout, who retired from his national team this week, has been on a public relations blitz from sunrise to sundown since hitting the Big Apple.
He did Morning Joe on MSNBC on Thursday and NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon later that day, as well as dozens of more Q&As.
“It’s tiring,” he said with a laugh in a phone interview on Friday with MLSsoccer.com. “I don’t mind. I do what I have to do. I knew I was going to do a lot of interviews. I’ve had a lot of fun doing them, but I came here to play. That’s why I want to be at training and I’m going to Columbus to watch my team.”
He will see Eastern Conference leaders Columbus try to increase their two-point lead on the Red Bulls.
“I don’t know much about the Columbus Crew, but they have some very good players, obviously,” Henry said.
The Crew are excited that Henry is the latest marquee name added to the MLS résumé.
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Crew midfielder Adam Moffat said. “You want to play against those good players. It’s good for the sport in this country. It brings more spotlight to the sport, but at the same time, if he doesn’t produce as people expect, there could be some bad light there.”
Henry is expected to make his debut Thursday at Red Bull Arena in a friendly against Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League but said he is anxious to help his club in league play.
“I want to adapt as quickly as I can to the team and then to the new league,” he said. “The more important thing for me is to get in shape and be ready as quickly as I can to help the team.”
Henry enters MLS with no preconceived notions.
“I didn’t expect a bad thing or a good thing,” he said. “I remember when we played against Seattle with Barcelona when we were on tour last year. At times they outplayed us on the ground and passing.
“It’s like any other league,” he added. “You have teams that want to play and teams that don’t want to play. Every team has their own way of playing.”
Henry will likely do more media events Saturday at Crew Stadium and fans will be watching for him but he said, however unrealistic, that the focus should be on the match.
“I don’t see myself alone as an ambassador of the sport or the league,” he said. “I’m a guy who wants to make a contribution to the Red Bulls, to win and help this league, obviously, but everybody involved with the teams are ambassadors.
“The Columbus Crew are doing well right now so then they are ambassadors for the league, too. We are all ambassadors. It’s not one or two guys.”