…I’M CRAIG HUTCHINSON: BARCLAYS NEW YORK CHALLENGE PROVIDES WELCOME COMPETITION AT THE RIGHT TIME

NewYorkRedBulls.com Correspondent Craig Hutchinson continues his regular column on RedBullsReader.com today with a look at today’s Thierry Henry press conference and the impact the French international could have on the team and MLS.  If you have a question or comment for Craig, share your thoughts in the comments section.

With a break in league play as the MLS All-Star game approaches, the Red Bulls played host to the Barclays New York Challenge which gave local fans the chance to see some more great international teams in action and for Hans to keep his players in game shape.

It also gave the opportunity for a certain Frenchman to make his debut alongside his new teammates and work his way back to full match fitness.

Obviously a lot has been made over the last two weeks of Thierry Henry’s arrival. Constant media attention, interviews, and promotional work has kept his calendar busy. But as the man himself keeps saying, he’s here for the football and just wants to help his teammates win a championship.

Thursday night, he finally got his chance.

Ironically enough, his debut saw him up against his former North London arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who he used to enjoy terrorizing in his eight years with Arsenal. Despite Carlos Mendes wearing the captain’s armband, Thierry led the team out onto the field and was introduced last to a rapturous wall of noise. There were a few boos sprinkled in there also from the Spurs fans and perhaps a couple of people wearing Ireland shirts still holding a grudge against him for his ‘Hand of Gaul’ which ended their run to the World Cup.

Then the football finally began.

It was clear to see that Thierry was not at full match fitness.  At times when he received the ball in space you knew a fully fit Thierry would drive at the defenders and look to penetrate the space with his speed, skills and sublime control. Instead he was always looking to find his teammates with smart one touch link play, and it almost paid dividends with an early goal for Henry, only for Carlo Cudicini to pull off a great save while one-on-one with the Frenchman.

It didn’t take long for the moment all Red Bull’s fans had been waiting for.

Great skill from Joel Lindpere got him to the byline where he cut the ball back for Henry, who provided a tremendous glancing finish on the ball while sliding in to attack it.
A debut goal for Thierry, against Spurs – that’s keeping to the script right there!

The team performance overall was very promising, but a host of second half substitutions took the rhythm out of the Red Bulls play and Tottenham capitalized on a couple of defensive mix-ups and walked away with the victory. Still, a lot of Red Bull players could walk away with their heads very high. Mac Kandji turned in a full 90 minutes and caused Spurs a lot of problems (as highlighted by Spurs boss Harry Redknapp) and Carl Robinson looked like his old self in the minutes he was given, breaking up attacks, then looking to play in his teammates with insightful passing. Ream and Mendes once again looked solid at the back in front of an outstanding Bouna, Roy Miller linked up very well pushing forward in attack and Dane Richards looked like the Dane we know he can be, using his speed and quick touches to unbalance the opposition’s defense.

The Red Bulls looked to take that promising performance into their next game against another Premiership team, Manchester City, and with the other results as they were, the team could have still mathematically won the tournament by beating City and scoring 5 goals, a tall order against a team of this caliber.

Man City started well and created a good early chance which was thwarted by a great stop by Bouna. New York reacted strongly and were rewarded with an early goal. Dane Richards picked up the ball in the middle of the Man City half and began dribbling diagonally across the pitch before beating former England left-back Wayne Bridge with speed on the outside and centering the ball to Kandji to tap in. Brazilian Jo leveled the game before the end of an entertaining first half. Both teams made a host of changes in the second half in order to give people a chance to impress (including for the Red Bulls, 20 year-old Brazilian trialist Marcos Paullo who had been impressive in practice that week), but it didn’t effect the Red Bulls play this time and they scored the winning goal through a fantastic 25 yard strike from Richards, a near identical one to the one he scored against Santos in the inaugural game at Red Bull Arena.

After a fun and entertaining weekend of soccer at the Arena, the Red Bulls head out to Houston looking to recover from their league defeat to Columbus two weeks ago. Hopefully there will be no fitness restrictions to the strike force and Hans will be able to name Juan Pablo Angel and Thierry Henry up-front together for the first time. Hans must also decide whether Danleigh Borman or Roy Miller is more deserving at left back, but the big decisions will be in midfield. Joel Lindpere is a lock, as will Dane Richards following his performances against Spurs and Man City (hopefully he can carry over these performances into the MLS. When I spoke to him after the Man City game he was questioned why he’s not been able to replicate his ‘friendly’ goal-scoring exploits into league games), but the other two midfield positions are well up for grabs between Stammler, Tchani, Robinson, Kandji, Sinisa and maybe even Miller or Borman. A lot will depend on performances in practice and lingering injury doubts, but Hans has some tough decision to make before Saturdays game.

Hopefully he makes the right ones and the Thierry Henry era at the Red Bulls can begin as we expect it to, with victories.

Until next time, I’m Craig Hutchinson…

Craig hails from the town of Barnsley in South Yorkshire, England and gained a BA honors degree in Sports Studies and Physical Education at the University of York St. John, North Yorkshire, England. After graduation, he worked for five years as a professional youth soccer coach throughout the United States. He joined the New York Red Bulls in 2008 as a coach in the youth Training Programs and Regional Development Schools. He became the team’s video broadcaster at the beginning of the 2010 season.

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7 Responses to “…I’M CRAIG HUTCHINSON: BARCLAYS NEW YORK CHALLENGE PROVIDES WELCOME COMPETITION AT THE RIGHT TIME”

  1. BC.Sec.130 Says:

    At both games on Sunday & there on Thurs. night, I saw you (Craig) trying to get around the long lines in the hallways which was near impossible. The Red Bulls blew it! They lost a ton of money and a lot of would be new season ticket holders with the horribe food lines. I had my 6 year old son with me and we missed 20 mins of the 2nd half on Thurs and the entire 2nd half of the first game on Sunday. I’m a full season ticket holder & I love this team and want our new home to make it. DON’T BLOW THE LA GAME!! OPEN FOOD VENDERS ON THE GROUND LEVEL.

    • alex Says:

      that’s why i like to eat b4 the game… to avoid spending 4$ on a bottle of water. there isnt really any place that you can buy food quickly (soccer specific stadiums) since its one of the only sports with 1 break in the middle that lasts only 15 min. i dont think you can blame RBA for doing this. and beleive me if they added more stands they would be loosing a lot more then they would be making. you need to pay people to run these places and keep em clean and if u go in the middle of a half you will get ur food in 30 sec so instead of waiting till halftime get ur good at the 20th minute or at the 70th minute. there are no lines at all… infact the platform is completely empty.

      • BC.Sec.130 Says:

        I have learned and will bring in what ever I can, they don’t have to worry about me I will always have my season tickets. I care more about what happens on the field than whats going on behind me, but we all know for this league to make it they need to make money and I feel they lost alot this weekend not only with food sales but with people buying more tickets. The lines were still busy at the 70th min this weekend and they weren’t sold out. What will happen with the sold out LA game?

    • Chan Says:

      I agree with adding vendors to the ground level. If the cart vendor format (like those that sell empanadas, taco, etc, with only two to three employees) are evenly spaced around the ground level, that could relieve the pressure of space and time on the stadium level. For the Spurs game, we sat on the second level for the first time. We left the first half about 5 min before the half, got in a line with only 6 people, and still waited almost 15 min to be served. If simple stuff like popcorn and water can be served at ground level carts, that would help a lot of fans (and yes, I hate the $4 water too!).

    • Scott Says:

      Honestly I think the biggest problem with the vendors is that the staff is just incredibly slow. Every time I have bought anything they move at a snails pace, act confused about the simplest thing and are incredibly disorganized. I feel like Red Bull could bring in some quality management and increase efficiency 25-50% which would greatly improve the congestion issues.

  2. Dario Says:

    Vendors on the ground are good. RB made the hallways WAY TO SMALL!!!

    We needed at least another 10-15 feet wide. It is tough to get anywhere at halftime.

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