HARRISON, N.J. – If his debut game in a Red Bulls jersey is any indication, the biggest beneficiary of New York’s April Fool’s Day deal to obtain Dwayne De Rosario is the biggest name on the field: Thierry Henry.
The Red Bulls' surprising swoop to acquire DeRo on Friday was done to maximize Henry, the team’s brightest star on a roster now replete with proven international talent. What De Rosario brings to the table is a proven playmaker who has consistently been among the best attacking midfielders in MLS since entering the league in 2001.
On his first touch of the match on Saturday night after coming into the game in the second half, De Rosario assisted on New York’s lone goal, a 47th-minute effort by Dane Richards in a 1-1 tie with Houston.
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[inline_node:332740]“I saw some space open up and I saw Dane run across,” De Rosario said. “I played the ball into space and he did the rest.”
While it was a frustrating night for the Red Bulls, who had the majority of possession and chances, De Rosario’s debut is the spark of a potentially bright future for what has been a tepid New York attack so far this season.
“I could see the difference with De Rosario in the second half with the short, short passes,” head coach Hans Backe said. “That will help Thierry Henry a lot.”
Without a true playmaker, Henry scored just two goals in his 13 MLS appearances during his debut season last year. The former French international has struggled to get service since arriving in MLS, leaving him to drop deep into the midfield to pick up the ball far away from the opponent’s goal. When healthy and getting the ball in dangerous areas, Henry has proven over his career to be a deadly finisher. Now with De Rosario feeding him balls, he should be able to score.
“The most difficult thing in the game is to create chances,” Henry said. “If we keep creating chances, you hopefully will put more in the back of the net.”
But after giving up Danleigh Borman and Tony Tchani – the No. 2 pick in last year's SuperDraft – to acquire De Rosario, Henry now needs to do more than “hopefully” score goals. The potential is clearly there for Henry to now begin thriving with good service from the midfield.
The difference that De Rosario brings to the field is that he frees up space for Henry and Juan Agudelo up top and, as evidenced by Saturday night, for Richards on the right flank as well. Henry consistently dropped deep into the midfield in the first half against Houston.
With a true creative player in the center of the midfield in the second half, he stayed higher up and closer to goal. In the second frame, Henry had the bulk of his chances to score – not surprising, since De Rosario created seams and space for the strikers up top.
De Rosario flew into the New York area on Saturday morning and met his teammates less than two hours before the match. He’s hopeful that the frustrations of the night, when the Red Bulls had a 24-9 shot advantage over the Dynamo, start resulting in more goals.
The midfielder said Backe’s instructions to him were simple.
“He just wanted me to come in and play my game,” the Canadian international said. “There’s more gelling to do, but I’m pleased that we were able to create some chances.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer