After four years, 51 goals and 42 assists, Thierry Henry’s time with the New York Red Bulls and Major League Soccer has ended.

Henry made the official announcement on his Facebook page yesterday.

Henry is arguably the best Designated Player to ever ply his trade in/for MLS.

David Beckham made more headlines, but Henry was perhaps the most impactful on the field. Beckham brought “MLS” into everyday lexicon for people who never watched a soccer game before. His star power – of course forever linked, in part, to his marriage to Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham – generated headlines and attention for MLS that never existed before.

Henry’s arrival, on the other hand, turned heads of lifelong soccer fans.

The striker is synonymous with Arsenal’s 2003-2004 “Invincibles,” and considered one of the best in English Premier League history. He just finished three seasons at Barcelona in which he started alongside Lionel Messi, won the UEFA Champions League and was part of the highest scoring trio in La Liga history (a record later broken).

Far from past his prime, Henry could have taken his talents to number of European giants. Instead, he made his way across the pond during the summer of 2010 to begin play with the New York Red Bulls.

Frank Dell’Apa, the great, longtime Boston Globe soccer writer, reflected on the legacy Henry left behind on Monday’s Beyond the Pitch with Anto Bianco and Phil Brown.

Substance to go along with style

The major knock against Henry has been his unwillingness to play on turf. In fact, Saturday’s MLS Eastern Conference final marked the first time he played at Gillette Stadium. The only turf field that Henry has played on is Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers.

Overall, Henry has appeared in 134 game for the Red Bulls. He averaged 28 games a season through his four full seasons. This season, he appeared in and started 30 of 34 games. Through 122 regular season games he scored 51 goals, second-best all-time for the club, and assisted on 42 goals, tops in club history.

Until his final two years with the L.A. Galaxy, save for the disappointing 2008 season, Beckham didn’t play a full season in MLS. In 98 regular season games, Beckham tallied 18 goals and 40 assists.

To his credit, Beckham was a part of two MLS Cup champion teams; however, in the third full season he played with the team – starting a majority of the games – the Galaxy missed the playoffs entirely. In fact, that happened twice during his MLS tenure. In 17 playoff matches, Beckham notched eight assists. He made two All-Star teams and one MLS Best XI squad.

Beckham averaged 25 games per season and 12 assists per in his three full MLS seasons. He missed much of the 2009 season due to his loan to AC Milan. An Achilles injury – which occurred while he was still on loan with Milan – derailed most of his 2010 MLS season.

Beckham left MLS and returned to top-flight Europe. Henry stayed put.

Henry’s teams made the postseason every time. In his 13 postseason matches, the four-time MLS All-Star and two-time MLS Best XI player scored one goal and racked up seven assists.

However, there remains a glaring hole on his MLS resume: He never got a chance to play for MLS Cup.

The New England Revolution downed his Red Bulls over the weekend in the MLS Eastern Conference finals, his final game in MLS. As always, he let his game do the talking, offering a simple compliment to the opposition.

Of course no one can be sure that Henry would have come to MLS if Beckham hadn’t done so three years prior.

What is certain? Henry’s ability on the field.

“When Henry was on the ball, you knew some magic was going to happen,” former USMNT captain John Harkes said on Monday’s edition of Counter Attack.

“I think we’re a better league having Thierry Henry here,” former USMNT goalkeeper and Counter Attack host Tony Meola added. “Hopefully, we’ll get more players like that.”

As players like David Villa and Frank Lampard make the move while they can and still are performing at the highest level of club soccer (the UEFA Champions League), Major League Soccer’s credibility grows. Henry deserves as much credit for that as anyone.

For the latest on the world’s game, stay tuned to SiriusXM FC 94!

Powered by WordPress.com VIP