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Soccer

Thierry Henry and Other Soccer Headlines

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* Henry to the Red Bulls -- Forget the fact that New Yorkers may never fully support a team branded after a metallic-tasting energy drink. Forget the name David Beckham, too. Forget the debacle that was the French National Team down in South Africa. Forget the handball against Ireland -- if you can.

Thierry Henry coming to the New York Red Bulls is a big deal.

It's surprising how many people are underselling the move. Or they're focusing on the fact he's 32 years old.

In New York, it certainly didn't help that the Red Bulls announced the move in the wake of George Steinbrenner's death on a day -- the MLB All Star break -- which otherwise would have had zero sports news.

Don't forget. This is Thierry Henry.

Thierry F'n Henry.

Arguably the best player, or certainly the best scorer, in the Premier League era in England.

And he's coming to the States before his bones are fully calcified.

Your heart would have to be blacker than the stripes on Newcastle United's jersey not to be excited by this development. Is it too bad we as Americans didn't get to see Henry come to a "city near you" in his prime? Sure. Is it worth scoffing that we're getting the 32, going on 33-year-old version? No.

It's Red Bull ponying up the money. It's their financial risk. If he can pump up interest in the New York market, good for Red Bull. Conversely, if he flops, its on them, not the league.

You have to at least applaud Red Bull for dreaming big and wanting to create a club to be reckoned with. They've built the arena, signed a star, now they must wait and see if Gotham footie fans will come.

Ask yourself this, would you rather pay money to see Henry or generic player X? Aren't you a little more likely to give an MLS game featuring New York a second look if Henry is out there?

So long as Henry can stay healthy -- probably the biggest if in the equation -- it's a true boon to MLS. Pre-Beckham could we have even dreamed of a player of Henry's caliber coming to the league?

Simply stunned this move has, if anything, been undersold.

* Donovan, Donovan -- MLS, at least officially, says it won't sell Landon Donovan. Can't blame them. Why sell off your brightest, most marketable star? The rare American player the sporting public will pay money to watch play, or at least could pick out of a lineup.

The cards are probably in Donovan's hands, though. Does he want to go? Would he make it an issue? Couldn't he still, conceivably, go on loan from January to March again?

Everton is clearly a fit for Donovan, but is David Moyes going to drop $15 million (guessing) on him? Chelsea and Manchester City have both been linked to Donovan and have the money, but he'd be a fringe player at either club.

Better yet, what does Donovan have to gain going abroad at this point? The next World Cup isn't for four years. He already proved any naysayers wrong with his joint efforts at Everton and then at the World Cup. Why sully that memory?

Don't forget, either, he's try to reconcile with his wife. It's a lot easier to do that in sunny SoCal than dreary Northwest England.

If Donovan, at the peak of his career and off-field marketability, decides that yes, I do indeed want to play in MLS it would be the best boost to the league's credibility, yet. It's one thing to import a star like Henry, but homegrown American icons don't exactly grow on trees.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but if Donovan says the Galaxy is where he wants to be, that's as good an endorsement of MLS yet. I try my best when it's on TV to watch MLS. It's not always easy(*), but a truly great player like Donovan at least makes it a lot easier to watch, since he makes all his teammates that much better. It'd be nice if every team in the league had their own version of Donovan.

(*) My No. 1 issue with MLS remains there's not enough at stake in the majority of matches, though that's improving.

MLS is in a tough spot. It wants to increase the credibility of the league, yet the best American players want to prove their mettle across the pond, conceivably against the world's best. Above all, I think, Americans soccer fans want to root for American stars.

The world's foremost soccer expert, Bill Simmons, groused about MLS being a "Double A" league, and he would boycott until it let Donovan go to Everton. It's not an unrealistic viewpoint, one probably held by many.

Somehow MLS needs to find the balance were it can provide enough of a competition/financial incentive for its brightest stars to eschew the chance European glory, which in turn would make casual fans less skeptical about the league itself.

It's one thing when a guys like Clint Dempsey or Tim Howard leave the league for places like Fulham or Manchester United. It's entirely something else when you see a Michael Parkhurst jump to Denmark's Nordsjælland. On the flip side we've seen players go to Europe like Bobby Convey and Clint Mathis, as examples, return to MLS as shells of their former selves.

MLS, again, is in a weird spot. Ask 10 American soccer fans about MLS and you'll get 10 different answers. Don't forget, we're watching a league grow from its infancy, that not only needs to compete with other domestic sports leagues, but the soccer leagues across the globe. Sometimes I wonder if we're too hard on it?

In the end, would I be happy to see Donovan playing Saturday mornings against some of the world's best? Sure.

Long term, Donovan staying with the Galaxy does a lot more to help U.S. soccer and MLS grow into one of those league's we wish it already was.

Of course, if those whispers about Ronaldinho landing with the Galaxy are true, Donvoan is probably out the door quicker than you can say Goldenballs.

* Meanwhile, All Quiet on the European Front -- Strange, how in the wake of the World Cup there hasn't been a flurry of transfer activity in Europe. Carlos Bocangera moving from Rennes to Saint-Etienne, doesn't quite count.

Are we waiting on the first big domino to drop, i.e. what happens with Fernando Torres, before a deluge of activity?

As it stands, all these rumors -- particularly the Bob Bradley(*) to Fulham ones and the Cesc to Barca -- are simply making my head spin, summer cold or not.

(*) Quick take, it would be a big step forward for American coaches for a Yank to get handed the reigns of a Premier League club. Long-term that's a far more interesting set of arguments/questions going forward than Donovan getting sold to an English club. ... If the USSF are indeed considering extending Bradley's contract, it means they don't have any viable candidates to replace him.

* Memory Lane -- Forget I DVRed the US/Mexico Round of 16 game from the 2002 World Cup a couple days ago. Finally rewatched it.

Good times, especially Jack Edwards, "Scccoooorreeee" goal call, coupled with his amazing, "Land of the Free, home of the brave" declaration.

Couple quickee retrospective thoughts: a) 2002 team probably deeper and better than 2010 squad in South Africa. Bruce Arena had a lot more options across the field, especially since Tony Sanneh played out of his mind for two weeks. b) all the nice-ish things I tweeted about Mexico, I take them back, El Tri was a disgrace in South Korea that day. Even Nigel de Jong would've blushed at some of the kung-fu kicks attempted. c) Donovan used to be an excellent header of the ball, must've been the hair. d) Forgot Arena dropped John O'Brien to left back for that match. The guy was as skilled as we've ever seen from a Yank. Too bad he had the same bone composition as Arjen Robben. e) Forgot, too, how effective Eddie Lewis was at crossing the ball from the left side. f) ESPN actually sent Lisa Salters to the match and interviewed Arena on the field. g) Carlos Llamosa, legend.

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