A knee injury has accomplished what Major League Soccer and referee Hilario Grajeda could not: take Thierry Henry out of Friday’s Galaxy-New York Red Bulls showdown.
Henry, the French wing-forward who is probably the greatest talent ever to play in MLS -- there was Lothar Matthaeus, with the Red Bulls’ MetroStars predecessors, but he accomplished nothing in the league -- has been ruled out with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Henry’s absence takes all the glitz off what would have been the most high-profile match in league history, with four legitimate World Cup stars -- the Galaxy’s David Beckham and Landon Donovan and New York’s Rafa Marquez joining Henry -- on the field.
Beckham is the biggest celebrity in world sport. Henry is among the finest players of his generation. Marquez, who was Henry’s teammate at Barcelona, and Donovan are the top names in the CONCACAF region, alongside Cuauhtemoc Blanco’s.
Henry was hurt in the Red Bulls’ Sept. 4 loss at Real Salt Lake, and he played with the injury Thursday night in a 2-2 draw at FC Dallas. He was fortunate not be red-carded nor retroactively suspended in that game after injuring Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman with a post-goal celebration even he called “stupid.”
Grajeda declined to give him a second yellow card, although it was warranted, and MLS brass -- perhaps afraid to take the biggest name out of their biggest game of the season -- fined him $2,000 for the incident but failed to assess a one-game suspension.
The game still has importance. The Galaxy (15-5-5) leads Real Salt Lake by three points in the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield races. New York (12-8-5) trails Eastern Conference leader Columbus by three points.