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HENRY’S HAT TRICK

Thierry Henry was modest in his comments after scoring his first MLS hat trick to lead the Red Bulls to its second victory, over expansion team Montreal Impact, in as many home games last Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena. Henry wasn’t concerned about how well he played but rather how badly the Red Bulls performed in the first period. “I care about what we did in the first half and how bad we played,’’ Henry said. “That’s all I care about.”

The former French World Cup star spoke like a true captain and a player who puts his team first. Henry’s team-first attitude is probably the reason why he has scored five goals in the two home games to lead the Red Bulls (2-2, 6 pts.) to a .500 record after dropping the first two games; but if the Red Bulls are to stay in the win column every weekend, it will take more than Henry’s heroics. The sloppy play at the back was in evidence again last Saturday, which helped winless Montreal (0-3-1, 1 pt.) to lead twice, scoring two goals in the first half, which ended in a 2-2 tie.

Henry scored in the 28th, 56th and 89th minutes and Kenny Cooper and Mehdi Ballouchy added goals for the Red Bulls; Henry assisted on Ballouchy’s tally and Cooper scored his fourth goal of the season from the penalty spot after teammate Dax McCarty was fouled in the penalty area. Sanna Nyassi and Justin Mapp scored for Montreal Impact.

In other MLS scores, New England, pulled off the biggest upset of the weekend by beating hosts and defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy, 3-1, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. D C United came away with a surprise 4-1 win over F C Dallas; the Columbus Crew got past Toronto FC, 1-0; Philadelphia, yet to get a win this season, played to a goaless draw with Vancouver; San Jose, in another surprisng victory, knocked off hosts Seattle, 1-0; Real Salt Lake came from behind to beat Portland, 3-2; Colarado bounced back from a 4-1 defeat against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, March 25, to defeat Chicago, 2-0; and Chivas USA topped Kansas City, 1-0.

U.S. Out Of Olympics

A 3-3 tie with El Salvador knocked the U.S. Men’s Olympic team out of that tournament on Monday night, March 26 in Nashville, TN. The U.S. had to win the quarterfinal game to advance to the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinal round and was leading 3-2 after rallying from a 2-1 deficit. A series of mistakes, including the most crucial one in injury time by Chicago Fire (MLS) goalkeeper Sean Johnson, allowed El Salvador to tie the game at 3-3 and advance to the semifinals, where it lost, 3-2, in overtime to Honduras; Mexico beat Canada, 3-1, in the other semifinal to meet Honduras in the final. Both Honduras and Mexico will represent CONCACAF at the London Olympics this summer.

Chinaglia was a pioneer of U.S. soccer

Giorgio Chinaglia died last Sunday from complications as a result of a heart attack. His death conjures memories of the beginnings of modern-day soccer in the U.S. Chinaglia played for the New York Cosmos of the NASL (North American Soccer League) in the late 1970s and was among the pioneers of the game, which now we call MLS (Major League Soccer). He was 65 and lived in Naples, Florida.

The Italian-born forward played alongside the great Brazilian and former Cosmos, Pele, who is considered the single most influential person responsible for soccer in America today, but Pele had help from his Cosmos teammates and many others who played on other NASL teams. The New York Cosmos had a star-studded lineup that included the great German defender Frantz Beckenbauer, Pele’s Brazilian captain Carlo Alberto, Dutch midfielder Johan Neeskens and Bermudan Randy Horton, but it was Chinaglia who emerge as a force and ardent spokesman for U.S. soccer.

Chinaglia joined the Cosmos in 1976 after a stellar career with Lazio FC that started in the late 1960s. He scored 98 goals in 209 matches for Lazio and helped the club win its first Italian league title in 1974, the year he played for Italy in the World Cup and scored to rally his country to victory after falling behind against Haiti. Chinaglia, in retirement, had a short stint as president of Lazio club in the mid ‘80s.

He was a big physical presence on and off the field as he stood well over six feet. He was an aggressive player, who had a knack for scoring goals and with the formidable Cosmos team behind him, Chinaglia became the NASL all-time leading scorer with 262 goals in his eight years with the Cosmos, the only American team he played for. Chinaglia once said: “I am a finisher. That means when I finish with the ball, it is in the back of the net.’’

The big Italian had a love-hate relationship - but for the most part, love - with New York soccer fans; he wasn’t the most technical player, but was a good header of the ball. Chinaglia was always very animated on the field, if not with the referee, at times with his players, but his fighting spirit endeared him to the players and fans, who appreciated his goals.

“Both myself and the entire city of Rome express profound condolences,’’ Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said in a statement. “For Lazio fans, Chinaglia was more than a symbol. He was a banner player that carried along an entire generation of fans and the emblem of the first title in 1974. And that’s how we remember him…”

Chinaglia, a U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer, helped to give birth to a generation of U.S. players and will always be remembered as a pioneer of U.S. soccer.

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