For the second time in this summer, the old man takes it. Though retirement may be on the horizon, and the cobwebs may be piling up in those 37-year-old joints, for one more weekend, New York Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry was the best player in Major League Soccer.
Not that he didn’t have competition. Like Henry, Seattle’s Obafemi Martins put up two goals and an assist, doing so against better competition (in Portland, as opposed to hosting Montréal). Philadelphia’s Sebastián Le Toux added three helpers to the goal he scored against San Jose, and given there were mid-week games last week, we should at least consider Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane’s contributions across two Galaxy wins.
Even after that consideration, it’s difficult to get past what Henry did in Harrison, N.J. After his team’s strong start receded and Montréal took a surprise lead, Henry came out of halftime intent on taking over the game, his reaction after each scoring play confirming his will was behind New York’s resurgence.
His diving header in the 53rd minute pulled back Dilly Duka’s opener, while the topspin he put on his 67th minute jab allowed his shot to skip over Evan Bush. Five minutes later, with the type of ball that’s become the backbone of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ surge up MLS’s scoring chart, Henry iced the game for his team, putting his strike partner on goal for the game-winner.
It was dominance instead of opportunism – the quality that defined Martins’ show in Portland. While the Nigerian made the most of the moments presented by the Timbers’ defense, Henry imposed himself on both teams, wilting Montréal while lifting his wayward Red Bulls.
The word ‘intangible’ gets overused, and certainly most of Henry’s Saturday contributions were, in fact, tangible, but what value do you put on somebody who can will his team to wins? Not just want to win. What’s the value in having somebody who can summon his production when his team needs it most? When his goals and assists have the most leverage? It’s at least a tiebreaker in discussions like these.
Henry doesn’t do it all the time, but he took over on Saturday. The value of that? Three points for his team, and our Player of the Week award for Henry.