HANOVER — For 20 minutes at the Red Bulls’ new training facility Thursday, Tim Cahill did nothing but sit and watch Thierry Henry shoot.
The Red Bulls have yet to miss the playoffs since captain Thierry Henry, right, arrived in 2010 from Barcelona.
Cahill is probably the teammate who would gain the least by observing Henry. The Australian international is poised to play in his third World Cup next summer, and he competed eight years for Everton in the English Premier League. Cahill is already saturated with the experience to succeed in the Red Bulls’ organization and MLS.
Still, he surveys Henry. He learns from Henry. And tonight at Red Bull Arena, against Western Conference leader Real Salt Lake, he’ll play with Henry.
The French striker commands his captaincy of the Red Bulls with a silent grace. He looks for the pass as much as he looks for the shot. He purposely takes more challenging free kicks in practice so he can test his limits. He nimbly eludes defenders who make it a point to mark him before all others — a doubly important task for RSL this evening with starting goalkeeper Nick Rimando away with the U.S. national team.
Henry may prevail, Henry may founder, but he seldom reacts with more than a tilt of the head.
“You only hear Thierry when there’s something valid to say and it needs to be said,” Cahill said.
When Henry finds those exceptions during a match, his reticence shatters in an outburst of frustration with himself and those around him.
“He has an aggressive, competitive temper, which is good for anybody who wants to succeed in anything,” Red Bulls coach Mike Petke said. “He demands excellence all the time. Some guys feed off of that, some guys don’t.”
But Henry’s actions on the pitch often shout louder than any verbal criticism he conveys to his teammates. When the Red Bulls beat the Montreal Impact, 4-0, on July 13, Henry was involved in the first three goals of the game, scoring once and adding two assists. He could have struck the fourth — a penalty. As one of the sport’s most fearsome set piece and penalty takers, that fourth goal belonged to him.
Instead, Henry gave it to Peguy Luyindula, a newcomer to MLS from France Ligue 1 champion Paris Saint-Germain. Luyindula was mired in an offensive drought to open his MLS career, and he had just witnessed a similar slump chase former Red Bull Juninho back to Brazil after just 13 scoreless appearances in 2013.