CARSON, Calif. – Typically when the opposing team’s biggest weapon is missing, it’s one less thing to worry about.
As the New York Red Bulls prepare to visit the LA Galaxy on Friday night without their star forward, though, Galaxy players are actually a bit disappointed.
Thierry Henry won’t play in Friday’s highly-anticipated clash between the Galaxy and Red Bulls at The Home Depot Center, so LA won’t have to deal with Henry’s pace nor his finishing skills.
But make no mistake, his presence will be missed.
“It would have been a really good challenge for our defenders to face him again and we’re still going to have our hands full,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “He’s a player that does things that no other player in this league can do. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the way it goes.”
Galaxy midfielder David Beckham is slowly regaining his own health and match fitness and, after having missed out on the team’s Aug. 14 match at New York, he’d said he was looking forward to playing against Henry and the Red Bulls at home.
Beckham and Henry have played against one another numerous times, from the 1990s when both were in the English Premier League and starring for England and France, respectively. This would have been their first meeting against one another on American soil.
Now that Henry’s out, however, Beckham said it’s a disappointment not just for himself, but for his teammates and supporters from both sides.
“I think everyone’s disappointed, because when you play against big teams, you want to play against their best players,” Beckham said. “Nothing against the players they’ve got coming in because they’ve got a talented squad and its going to be a really tough game for us – but for the fans and the neutral fans, it’s a shame that Thierry won’t be playing.”
Henry injured his knee in a 1-0 loss Real Salt Lake on Sept. 4. He has played nine league games and went the distance in their last three, but the injury persisted and earlier this week New York manager Hans Backe said his team would rest their prized French import in order to prevent any further damage.
Whether he plays against the Galaxy or not, Henry’s arrival in Major League Soccer is a coup for MLS, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said.
“He’s a great player,” Arena said. “At one time, he was arguably the finest striker in the world. Already in this short period of time he’s been in the league, he’s done quite well and he’s a fantastic talent to bring into the league. Obviously he’s a player whose name is recognized all over the world so I think it’s nothing but a positive.
Injuries, though, strike every team, and New York won’t be an unchallenging opponent because Henry is not around, Arena said.
“Injuries are all part of the game. We’ve played 23 games without David Beckham and no one’s been feeling bad for us,” Arena said. “One game without Henry is not going to be the worst thing for them.
"They have a very good team, they’ve played a number of games without him. They’ve won a number of games without Henry and they’re certainly going to be a formidable opponent on Friday.”
With or without Henry, Galaxy players will go about their business, and if the game has lost some of its luster, so be it, Donovan said.
“We have to play the game regardless of who’s there,” he said. “If they put their third team out on the field, we’re still going to play the game the same way. Obviously for the people watching, it makes the light a little dimmer, but it’s still going to be a fun game.”