New York Soccer: Boca Juniors

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Arsenal FC

July, 31, 2011
7/31/11
9:00
AM ET
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.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. Paris Saint-Germain at Emirates Stadium

July, 30, 2011
7/30/11
2:23
AM ET
Leave it to the City of Lights to unite an Arsenal legend with his old supporters against a common foe.

Before the Gooners can welcome back Gunners great Thierry Henry in the weekend finale, the New York Red Bulls will kick off against Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain at Emirates Stadium in London, England on Saturday. This trans-Atlantic clash represents the first leg of the Emirates Cup, a two-day exhibition tournament hosted by English Premier League side Arsenal FC.

The four clubs involved in this year's Emirates Cup -- Arsenal, Paris SG, Boca Juniors, and the Red Bulls -- play two matches with the standard tournament scoring of three points awarded for a win, one point for a draw, and the added incentive of a point for every goal scored. Arsenal has won the Emirates Cup three times in the four years of the tournament's existence, including last year's edition.

Key Matchup: The Red Bulls vs. Their Depth Chart. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe has worked hard to mixed results in balancing a very busy July schedule that includes MLS regular season, US Open Cup, and MLS All-Star Game commitments for many of his key players.

Make no mistake -- the Emirates Cup sat on the Red Bulls' calendar with a big circle around these next two days. These games may not factor in to the MLS standings, but they stand to help benefit the club's reputation on the global soccer scene and within MLS. They will not punt these matches in the same way they seemingly punted the US Open Cup quarterfinal at Chicago.

Backe has 21 players at his disposal to play two matches in two days before the Red Bulls can finally have their full first week of rest since the middle of June. With Luke Rodgers and Mehdi Ballouchy missing the trip due to injury and visa issues respectively, Backe has one more balancing act to peform with his reserves and regular personnel to make a strong impression under the bright lights of the second largest club stadium in London.

Time Zone Tizzy. New York generally hasn't fared well in their matches away from Eastern Standard/Daylight Time, going 0-2-8 in MLS play this season as well as the US Open Cup loss at Chicago.

Factor in the five-hour time difference to Greenwich Mean Time and that the club did not leave New York until Thursday nor send any non-All-Stars in advance to adjust to the time difference and it could make for a sluggish start by whatever combination of players that Backe decides to start against Les Parisiens.

A Moveable Feast. Paris Saint-Germain is a club on an upward trajectory, with their fourth-place finish in the 2010-11 season being their best finish in a decade and a mere three seasons after narrowly avoiding relegation. New Paris SG sporting director Leonardo took the reins in July after being courted away from his post as Inter head coach.

Leonardo promptly brought Roma winger Jérémy Ménez and former Juventus defensive midfielder Mohamed Sissoko to bolster his defensive efforts as well as French 'keeper Nicolas Douchez and former Palermo shot stopper Salvatore Sirigu to handle the netminding duties. A lot of Paris SG manager Antoine Kombouaré's weekend tactics may revolve around Leonardo's efforts to help these players establish chemistry for the upcoming season and the accompanying run in the UEFA Europa League.

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