When the New York Red Bulls lost the MLS Eastern Conference two-game finals series to the New England Revolution last Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro (MA), it not only marked the end of the season and the gallant effort to play in the 2014 MLS Cup, but the end of a memorable era in the club’s history - the end of Captain Thierry Henry as a Red Bull.
The Red Bulls lost the first leg at home, 2-1, to the Revs, but could only muster a 2-2 tie on the road, when it needed a win, and lost 4-3 on aggregate. Tim Cahill and Peguy Luyindula scored for New York and Charlie Davies had both goals for the Revs.
In the waning moments of the game, Henry kept gesturing to his teammates for one more goal, one more game to his Red Bulls career, but it was one more goal that never came. So the curtain came down on a most memorable four-and-a half years in Red Bulls history, then the former French international took his bow this way:
“I am taking this opportunity to announce that unfortunately Saturday was my last game for the New York Red Bulls. The decision has always been that I would leave after the duration of my contract and although that was never going to change, I didn’t want it to distract from the progress of the team.
“I have immensely enjoyed my four and half years here and would like to thank everyone involved with this club who has made my time here so enjoyable.
“Thanks must go particularly to Erik Soler, Hans Backe, Gerard Houllier, Andy Roxburgh, Mike Petke, all my team mates, the technical staff, medical staff, all the personnel who work for the Red Bull organization, the MLS and of course the owner Mr. Mateschitz whose vision and passion brought me to this wonderful city.
“A special mention must go to the Red Bull fans, who have supported this team through the good, the bad and the ugly times in the sun, rain and snow. You guys have really meant a lot to me and thank you for all your wonderful support.
“I will now take the next few weeks to reflect and decide on the next chapter of my career.
“Thank you all.”
Henry went out in style; he combined with forward Bradley Wright-Phillips to score 37 goals and 16 assists in the regular season and, for his part, recorded 10 goals and 14 assists on the season, including five assists in five playoff games. Henry was the driving force behind a late season surge that carried the team in the playoffs and surprisingly all the way to Eastern Conference finals. His efforts garnered him a fourth MLS Best Selection. This time he was accompanied as an MLS Best pick by Wright-Phillips, who led the league with 27 goals and four in the playoffs.
Most importantly, Henry brought much publicity and legitimacy to a once bewildered area franchise and a growing league. With Henry, MLS got serious looks from many established European stars such as Irishman Robbie Keane with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Jermaine DeFoe in Toronto FC, Nigerian Obafemi Martins in Seattle and lately former England international Frank Lampard with New York City FC, which kicks off its inaugural MLS season in 2015. Thierry Henry will always be remembered as a Red Bull.
The Eastern Conference champion Revs will play the Galaxy on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. in StubHub Center in Los Angeles for the 2014 MLS championship. The Galaxy, despite a 2-1 lost at the Seattle Sounders last Sunday, won the Western Conference for the ninth time and is playing in MLS Cup for the fourth time in the last six years. The Galaxy won the first leg of the Conference finals at home, 1-0, which left the series with a 2-2 aggregate tie, but Los Angeles advanced because of the away-goal tie-breaker. Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey scored for Seattle, while Juninho pulled a goal back for Los Angeles.
The MLS Cup brings the curtain down on another star’s career as it will be former USA international forward Landon Donovan’s last MLS game because of retirement. “It seems perfect, yeah, but we have to win it,” Donovan said. “That’s our challenge. We’re playing a team that is -- I think -- the best team in the league over the past 10 or 12 games. So it’s going to be a challenge.”
The Trinidad and Tobago women’s national team came close to making history on Tuesday in its bid to be the first Caribbean women’s team to play in a FIFA Women’s World Cup; instead, the Soca Princesses suffered a heartbreaking lost at home to Ecuador. After dominating the game and missing a number of chances to score, the visitors made one of only a handful of opportunities count. Ecuador scored a free kick in stoppage time to win, 1-0, and get the last berth in the 24-team World Cup field for Canada next summer.