Birchall vs NY
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Friday night clash still a must see

CARSON, Calif. – Thierry Henry won’t be on the field at The Home Depot Center on Friday when the New York Red Bulls face the LA Galaxy in one of the most highly anticipated games of the MLS season. But despite his absence, the match will remain what it’s always been: a showdown between Eastern and Western Conference powers.

The absence of Henry, who has been ruled out of the game because of a knee injury, does little to take away from the marquee matchup in the opinion of Galaxy coaches and players.

“You always want to have your team playing against the best the other team has to offer,” head coach Bruce Arena said Tuesday, “but they did pretty well before Henry arrived and I’m sure they’ll be well-positioned to play without him.

“They’re certainly not going to replace Henry with a player of the same quality, but they’ll have a good player on the field in his position and they’ll have a good team on the field."

“I don’t think they’ll miss a beat.”

Henry, who has played in nine league games (all starts) and has two goals and three assists since joining the Red Bulls, was ruled out of Friday’s clash on Monday after he apparently aggravated a sprained medial collateral ligament, an injury he originally suffered in his right knee in a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Sept. 4. Henry was also involved in an incident during last Thursday’s 2-2 draw with FC Dallas which left FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman with a knee injury that will sideline him for 2-3 weeks. Henry was fined $2,000 for his role in the play.

Veteran Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter, who has not played since the last time the clubs met, a 1-0 Galaxy victory in New York on Aug. 14, called Henry’s absence unfortunate but part of the game.

“It happens,” he said. “You lose players throughout the season … we’ve lost our share of players. He’s obviously one of the most dangerous players in the league and it’s obviously a boost to us, but they still have enough quality up front to make a difference.”

Juan Pablo Angel, for example, has 12 goals, second in the league to only the Galaxy’s Edson Buddle, who has 14.

“The fans will get their money’s worth this game,” Berhalter said.

Chris Birchall said Henry impressed him in the first meeting between the clubs, despite the fact Henry was playing in one of his first MLS games. Birchall said it was a thrill facing the 33-year-old who, at one time, was one of the most feared attacking players in the world.

“You like to play against those kinds of players, and he’s obviously going to improve the team when he’s in there,” Birchall said. “We’ll be quietly happy he’s not in there.”

The Galaxy’s Mike Magee said the team’s preparations won’t change much despite the absence of the former Arsenal and Barcelona standout. Magee also said fans still have plenty to be excited about come Friday night.

“You take him from the game, you still have (David) Beckham, (Landon) Donovan, (Rafa) Marquez and (Juan Pablo) Angel,” he said. “There’s a lot to see there.”

Added goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, “This was always a big fixture before Henry, and it will be a big fixture after Henry’s gone, Beckham is gone, Landon is gone. Because it’s between two good teams and two big organizations.

“It’s always going to be a good game.”


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