New York Soccer: Arsenal

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Real Salt Lake

August, 6, 2011
New York has not played a match that's meaningful to their postseason chances in two weeks.

But try saying that in front of the newest addition to their trophy case.

The New York Red Bulls carry the goodwill of their recent Emirates Cup win to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on Saturday as they kick off against a struggling Real Salt Lake side. New York overcame the goosebumps generated by Thierry Henry's homecoming match at the home of his former English Premier League side Arsenal F.C. to establish a fine defensive form against the Gunners a mere 24 hours after Joel Lindpere scored the game-winning goal for an unlikely 1-0 win over Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain.

Real Salt Lake returns home with spirits low from conceding two shutout losses in the past week. The CONCACAF Champions League runners-up dropped identical 2-0 results against the Columbus Crew at home last Saturday and at Sporting Kansas City this past Wednesday, with absences of Álvaro Saborío and Jamison Olave providing only a small part of RSL's recently poor form.

Thanks to the futility of the Claret-and-Cobalt and New York's inactivity over the past two weeks, the Red Bulls (6-5-12, 30 pts) now find themselves tied for third place of the Eastern Conference with a surging Sporting Kansas City (7-6-9, 30 pts) side and four points behind the newly-minuted first-place Columbus Crew (9-7-7, 34 pts). The Philadelphia Union (8-5-8, 32 pts) sit two points in front of New York in second place and with two games in hand on both the Crew and Red Bulls.

187. That how many minutes it has been since a typically-potent Real Salt Lake side has found the back of the net. RSL striker Fabian Espindola leads the club with six goals this season but has not scored July 9, while Saborio collected a double against the San Jose Earthquakes before the All-Star Break but was suspended one match for diving against the Quakes.

Key Matchup: Thierry Henry vs. Olave's Replacement. Surely, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe did nothing malicious in his MLS All-Star coaching duties when he oversaw a knee injury to the RSL center back in the star-studded showcase.

The reigning MLS Defender of the Year will miss his third match since the MLS All-Star Game with the same MCL strain, leaving a gap in the RSL back line for the Red Bulls attack to exploit. Olave's replacement, Chris Schuler, has looked lost at times against the Crew and Sporting KC, fueling speculation that RSL coach Jason Kreis may call upon Rauwshan McKenzie to take a shot at filling Olave's shoes alongside defensive stalwart Nat Borchers.

Olave's absence leaves a gap in a back line that Henry and company will try to get behind when they can wrestle possession from a typically-disciplined RSL side led by team captain Kyle Beckerman. The Red Bulls may find their most effective offensive output coming from pressing right up the middle against the home team on their own turf.

Missing in Action. Backe revealed earlier this week that Luke Rodgers is expected to miss up to three weeks of games before a final determination is made on whether an ankle injury will shut the English forward down for the rest of the season. That may raise the expectations for Juan Agudelo, who will benefit most from Rodgers's absence from a playing-time standpoint.

New York will also miss midfielder Dane Richards as he served a one-game suspension for a red card he received against FC Dallas, but expect that a quadricep cramp injury sustained by German 'keeper Frank Rost on the flight back from London on Monday will not keep their shot stopper from missing Saturday's match.

Conquer the World. On Thursday, the Red Bulls learned that they will lose Agudelo along with defenders Tim Ream and Rafael Marquez as well as goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul to international duty following Saturday's match. The foursome are expected back in time for the Red Bulls match at home against the Chicago Fire next weekend, meaning they will only miss out on practice time rather than in-game action.

Travel Travails. New York did collect a win and a draw overseas last weekend, but those results do nothing to better the club's 0-2-8 record in away matches outside their own time zone. Mercifully, the Red Bulls have six home games to four away after Saturday's contest that includes three of their next four matches at home. A win against Real Salt Lake would help the Red Bulls open the second half on the right foot and return home in much better spirits for the stretch run.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Arsenal FC

July, 31, 2011
Forget Paris -- Tell the world Titi's coming home.

Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry returns to the scene of his greatest career triumphs as his New York Red Bulls club faces English Premier League stalwart Arsenal FC in the Emirates Cup finale at Emirates Stadium in London, England on Sunday. Henry will make his first start against the Gunners since departing for FC Barcelona in 2007, though the French striker briefly appeared as a substitute for Barça at Arsenal in the first leg of the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal match.

New York will need to overcome the pomp and circumstance surrounding Henry's homecoming to leave with the host's hardware on Sunday. The Red Bulls sit atop the two-day tournament's four-team group with three points by making a Joel Lindpere goal hold up against a barrage of shots by their opponents in a 1-0 victory over Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday.

Arsenal and Boca Juniors consummated a 2-2 draw in the second-half of the doubleheader at Emirates Stadium, giving each side one point heading into Sunday's doubleheader finale.

Key Matchup: Henry vs. the Gooners. New York may consider taking the Emirates Cup home with them a priority, but this prestigious invitation to kick off against one of the elite English Premier League sides on their home turf simply does not happen if not for the presence of Henry.

This match may morph into a de facto testimonial for the Arsenal legend, but his current club owes him an equal debt of gratitude for enabling the Red Bulls to kick off on such a prominent stage. The contest is nothing more than a preseason warmup for the Gunners, but everyone will watch in hopes of getting a passing glance at the magic that helped Henry deliver two EPL titles, two FA Cups, four Golden Boots, five Player of the Year awards and a club-record 226 goals in 370 contests to Arsenal.

For a fleeting moment, New York now stands in the soccer spotlight. So what can they do with it?

Let's Play 21. From the 21 players selected to make the trip across the Atlantic, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe fielded a very aggressive lineup against Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday that included eight of his regular starters as well as teenage phenom Juan Agudelo. All of that grouping but Teemu Tainio saw more than 70 minutes of action while Agudelo departed after 74 minutes as a precautionary measure after banging up his ankle in the 49th minute and another snag which Saturday's broadcast team described as a "groin strain."

Backe saved Henry and Rafael Marquez for the Sunday finale, but it remains to be seen who else the NY coach will call upon to represent the Red Bulls against the Gunners -- and more importantly, which players will receive double duty this weekend.

Gunners Blazing. Arsenal may have kept tabs on their former captain (Gunners captain Cesc Fabergas and Robert Van Persie were guests of Henry for the Red Bulls match against Colorado on May 25), but they'll enter Sunday's match with an eye towards August 12 -- also known as their first week of competition in the 2011-12 EPL season.

Fabergas will miss Sunday's finale as speculation builds about the Arsenal captain's potential transfer to FC Barcelona (the same move Henry made in 2007), but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger can't wait for that situation to sort itself out and simultaneously acclimate his newest acqusitions, Ivorian forward Gervinho and English defender Carl Jenkinson, and the rest of his club to EPL season form.

Considering Wenger is overseeing a light preseason schedule with only one more match before their EPL season commences in Newcastle, he'll need to see more than a club with some offseason rust to shed.

Rapid Reaction: Red Bulls 2, Rapids 2

May, 25, 2011
The New York Red Bulls and the Colorado Rapids played to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday evening at Red Bull Arena. Colorado twice took the lead in the first half courtesy of two goals by Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. New York quickly answered each goal with successive strikes by Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers.

By earning one point in the standings from the draw, the Red Bulls draw even with the Philadelphia Union atop the Eastern Conference standings with both clubs resuming action on Saturday.

Piece of Set. Once again, the Red Bulls conceded both goals from set pieces. Larentowicz opened the scoring in the 27' minute after finishing a rebound from his own penalty kick. He later helped Colorado regain the lead in the 33' minute from a free kick just to the right of the arc. New York led in possession throughout the game -- the Rapids did not get their first touch in the attacking zone until 7:34 into the match -- but cost themselves two more goals from bad fouls near their own penalty area.

Play of the Game: Ream's Kick Save on Casey. Perhaps Red Bulls coach Hans Backe should add his star sophomore into the goalkeeper conversation. With 'keeper Greg Sutton off his line, Tim Ream found himself in the 76' minute as the only thing standing in between Conor Casey and a Rapids' game-winning goal. Ream, while standing on the goal line, picked up the path of Casey's kick and batted it away from net. That gives Ream two bailout saves on the season, with the first coming on a Landon Donovan kick during the 1-1 draw to the LA Galaxy earlier this seaosn.

Ream quarterbacked an effective back line that endured the absence of Rafael Marquez, who missed Wednesday's game due to a groin injury. And he single-handedly saved the game for New York by inadvertently stepping in for Sutton.

Call and Answer. Although the Red Bulls surrendered two goals due to their ongoing free kick foibles, they responded in kind before the Rapids could truly savor the lead.

Two minutes after Larentowicz's first goal, Henry picked up a pinpoint cross from Dwayne De Rosario and buried it on the right side of the net. Larentowicz would score his second goal two minutes later, only to have Rodgers pick up a Roy Miller pass on the right side and lob it over the head of Rapids 'keeper Matt Pickens for the equalizer.

The four goals in six minutes was the fastest in a game involving the Red Bulls, and the first occurrence since the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo accomplished the frenetic feat on March 28, 2009.

Feeling Possessed. The Red Bulls dominated possession at a 62%-to-38% clip, but failed to capitalize on it in the first half with several failed lob passes from the back line. New York kept the ball on the ground more effectively in the second half, with no positive results to show for it.

Odds and Ends. The Red Bulls learned before the match that De Rosario, Ream, and Juan Agudelo will join the club in its away trip this weekend before departing the team for international duty. Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas and striker Robert Van Persie were among the 18,101 fans in attendance at Red Bull Arena.

The Red Bulls will take their four-game winless streak out West as they visit the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday at Empire Field. First kick is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Henry asks Aston Villa's Robert Pirès to consider Red Bulls, MLS

May, 18, 2011
Thierry Henry's role with the Red Bulls may now include the Lions' share of scouting and recruitment.

The Birmingham Mail reported on Wednesday that Aston Villa midfielder Robert Pirès spoke about his future to the Red Bulls forward. Pirès, who played alongside Henry with the French National Team and Arsenal of the English Premier League, admitted that Henry encouraged his former teammate to consider joining the Red Bulls.

“Thierry has phoned me,” Pirès said to the Birmingham Mail. “He called me up and said ‘come over and play with me’ but there are no real offers yet."

The 37-year-old French midfielder is in the final season of his contract with Aston Villa. He has started two games and played in seven others as a substitute, with no goals or assists to show for his efforts.

Henry and Pirès experienced a great deal of success together on the pitch. The duo supported the French National Team during championship runs by Les Bleus at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2000. They also figured prominently at the club level with Arsenal, leading the Gunners to Premier League titles in the 2000-01 and 2002-03 seasons as well as FA Cup wins in 2002 and 2003.

Pirès has indicated his preference to speak with Aston Villa about a new contract after the EPL season concludes and before considering other suitors.

“For the moment there is nothing else," said Pirès, "Because the league is not finished. I will wait until it is finished. I am relaxed about it. I still feel fit enough to play.”