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Brilliant free kick opportunity infamously squandered for the Red Bulls; what was Thierry Henry thinking?

Nov 9, 2012, 10:15 AM EDT

DC United v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

At the macro level, the New York Red Bulls organization has erred in ways big and small through the years, starting with the MetroStars days, of course. Suffice to say, the laughable litany of historic foible and kerfuffle could fill volumes.

At micro level, game-day booboos have undermined the club, too.

But perhaps none of the pitch-side blunders and mind-benders could match last night’s choice at the end of New York’s loss to D.C. United. (Let’s not count technical blunder here; we’ll only speak of choices and decisions made by players on the field.)

Let me sum up this one: Roy. Freaking. Miller. Are you serious?

(MORE: Highlights and analysis of the match)

Situation: With the Red Bulls’ season in the balance and sand in the organization’s 2012 hour glass just about out, D.C. United and referee Mark Geiger tossed the club a lifeline. They got a free kick in the miracle-maker zone; it was just off center at the top of the penalty area arc. That’s enchanting territory for a shooter, close enough to target a realistic corner and beat the goalkeeper, far enough to get the ball over the wall and still under the crossbar.

What an opportunity. What a storybook moment, an opportunity to create history.

Up steps Thierry Henry, among the most talented and decorated men to ever slip into an MLS jersey. This was his moment, the fabulous Frenchman’s time to stamp his name into a New York professional soccer history that’s more storied than we sometimes remember.

(MORE: the Rafa Marquez toxin at Red Bull Arena)

What happened next is simply inexplicable.

Roy. Freaking. Miller. Are you serious?

No offense to Miller, the Costa Rican international, a good soldier around Red Bull Arena for three seasons. But he’s a fullback! And a reserve fullback at that!

He’s not a globally accomplished, world class sharpshooter who has passed the tests in World Cups, European Championships, problematic Champions League campaigns, brilliant La Liga nights and the most tortuously nervy EPL fixtures. Henry is all that!

And yet, Miller takes the shot.

For me, no matter what gets said about it, no matter how much arrogance and condescension Henry layers into explanations of angles and left-footers vs. right-footers or whatever, this one simply cannot be explained away. It truly is a head-scratcher for the New York athletic ages.

Here’s the shot:

  1. berlintexas - Nov 9, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    The fans deserve an explanation from the team and the player.

  2. capsfan19 - Nov 9, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    I agree!!!! As a united fan, when the ref pointed to the spot this is what happened “great… Henry is gonna rip this top shelf…… HA HA HA HA”
    Honestly what was he thinking?

  3. soccerjohn - Nov 9, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Did Henry indicate in postgame comments that he went along with Miller taking it? Because it looked to me like Miller rushed his shot. Could have been that he thought he saw the keeper out of position. Could have been an effort to beat Henry to it. (And could simply be that he didn’t rush his shot, I suppose.) But, to me, it looked rushed.

    And Henry’s reaction, to hold his head in his hands. All game long, the guy made a big show of demonstrating his woe and dismay at the ref’s calls, opposing players’ temerity for falling when he made contact with them, and his teammates’ gaffes. Obnoxious.

  4. dfstell - Nov 9, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    Yeah….I didn’t get this either. When they lined up, I thought it was kinda pathetic that Roy Miller was the best left-footed player they could put up there. Ha! No one will believe that Henry would defer to Miller, right?

    Whatever it was, as an outsider, they’ve got a LOT of housecleaning to do at NYRB.

  5. mdac1012 - Nov 9, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    It’s like having Michael Jordan on your team and you ask Luc Longley to take the last shot of the game with the season on the line.

  6. arwlin777 - Nov 9, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    Henry not stepping up to take the FK was a complete joke. This guy is the team’s star DP, and is paid to come up big in these type of situations. Whether or not he would’ve scored doesn’t matter, the fans just want to see him take the FK and know he gave it his all. No amount of explaining from him can justify the decision for him to defer to Roy Miller. Do you think Beckham in the same situation would allow someone else to take the FK? Even Juan Pablo Angel, the team’s previous DP, stepped up to take free kicks when the game was on the line (see 6/2/2010, when Angel hit a game-winning FK in stoppage time to defeat Houston 2-1). And let’s not even get into the fact that most of Henry’s goals scored this year were against non-playoff teams, and his continued refusal to play on turf.
    The team’s DP and “captain” not willing to take a FK with the game on the line, I’m not sure how any of his teammates can continue to respect someone like that. Yelling and gesturing angrily at your teammates on the field also doesn’t make you a great team leader. Wearing a retro Metrostars armband may score you some points with the fans, but it doesn’t win playoff games and it doesn’t get you an MLS Cup. I believe a lot of NY fans lost some respect for Henry last night with him not taking the FK.

  7. tylerbetts - Nov 9, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    What? You guys don’t remember when Joe Montana went with the halfback pass to Dwight Clark to get that iconic touchdown to beat the Cowboys and put the 49ers in the Super Bowl? Or when Michael Jordan passed the ball to an end-of-the-bench teammate who took that iconic shot over Craig Ehlo in 1989? Or when the Yankees pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez in the playoffs with the game on the line? (Oh, wait, I guess that one happened …)

    I STILL can’t believe Henry didn’t take that shot. If you’re an MLS team with a player my wife would say “damn, you’re going to give up a goal here” when he stands over that shot (and that’s not to say anything negative about my wife who tolerates my soccer addiction), how do you not have that player take the shot?

    But, hey, I guess that’s why you’re the Red Bulls, and your trophy room is still empty. Or, to put it another way: Henry not taking that Free Kick is so Metro.

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