Red Bulls beat Sporting KC 2-1 to advance
HARRISON, N.J. (AP) Thierry Henry won’t be retiring – at least for two more games.
The 37-year-old Frenchman set up the first of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ two goals in the final 13 minutes and helped rally New York to a 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Thursday night.
The result eliminated the defending MLS Cup champion from the playoffs and sent the Red Bulls to the conference semifinals.
New York will host D.C. United on Sunday in the first of a two-leg semifinal series. D.C. will host the second leg on Nov. 8.
Henry is in the final year of his contract with New York and, despite several media reports indicating he intends to retire, has not commented publicly about intentions.
He once again did not address the question, and Red Bulls coach Mike Petke grew exasperated when asked if he thought about the match being Henry’s last when New York trailed.
”Do I have to get it tattooed on my head? I have no clue what Thierry’s going to do,” Petke said. ”I said it enough already. Thierry, I think, could play two more years.”
After Dom Dwyer finished a counter in the 53rd minute to put Kansas City ahead, Henry led New York’s rally, forcing Kansas City keeper Eric Kronberg to tip his header over the bar in the 55th minute and volleying a loose ball high in the 72nd.
Then in the 77th minute, he took a feed from Peguy Luyindula and sent a short ball into the middle of the penalty area. Wright-Phillips struck it first time, knocking it off the leg of defender Matt Besler and inside the far post.
With less than a minute to go, Wright-Phillips won the game, knocking in a header off a cross from Ambroise Oyongo.
The goals continued the impressive year for the Englishman, who led MLS with a record-tying 27 goals in the regular season.
Henry, arguably MLS’ biggest foreign-player acquisition behind David Beckham, came to MLS in the summer of 2010 with a resume that included World Cup and European Championship titles with France, league titles in France, Spain and England and a European Champions League trophy. He also was runner-up for FIFA’s Player of the Year twice.
Having been the beneficiary of Henry’s passes, Wright-Phillips would be the saddest to see the Frenchman end his career.
”If it was up to me, I’d keep him playing until when I retire,” Wright-Phillips said. ”Obviously, he’s our man. It will be up to him at the end of the day.”
Despite being bothered by sore Achilles tendons in both legs, Henry gave no indication that his body was making him consider retirement more this year than any other.
”It’s the way it is. I’ve been in the game for 20 years and I rarely miss games,” he said. ”It’s the same.”
The loss was the fourth straight for Kansas City, including a CONCACAF Champions League defeat, a slump coach Peter Vermes attributed to injuries and a crowded schedule that also included losing players to the World Cup.
”We just don’t have bodies,” Vermes said. ”We’re just missing a lot of different guys in the group. We ran out of gas but it’s also a lot of guys have had to take on responsibility within games that normally they shouldn’t have to.”