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Thierry Henry rushes to defense of Major League Soccer

Feb 24, 2014, 7:33 PM EDT

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Everyone knows that Thierry Henry can score goals. As one of the select group of World Cup winners who have played in Major League Soccer, the guy clearly knows his way around a soccer field.

Everyone may not know that the former French international (and third all-time leading Premier League scorer) is a real student of the game, someone who watches soccer constantly, including ample video study of MLS.

So when he says something like this, it’s worth paying attention to:

In an ESPNFC.com interview, Henry issued a hand-waving (quintessentially French) dismissal to any and all who don’t see Major League Soccer as a high-quality operation.

So, phooey to you, negative Nellies.

People [in Europe] have the view of MLS that it’s an easy league, that you can come here and score goals and it’s going to be easy. I keep on telling them, ‘It’s not that easy.’ You have to perform, you have to show people here that you can play and they’ll give you your respect, but not before that.”

Henry also mentioned something that I have heard for years and years, but something that always seems to escape broader broadcast: travel across such a big land and performance in the long months of taxing heat is a big adjustment for so many European imports into MLS.

  1. dfstell - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:35 PM

    It’s obvious that it isn’t an easy league. One thing MLS has boatloads of is guys who are fast and strong with good endurance. Maybe not the most technical. Maybe not the best first touches, but it is no fun to play against someone faster and stronger with good lungs. They make your life hell as you age.

    That is especially true if your teammates aren’t very technical either. That means a guy like Henry has to work even harder because his teammates for NYRB aren’t making the runs to cut open a non-technical group of defenders.

    Playing in MLS is a LOT of work. Honestly, I think Italy looks like a better retirement league for these aging technical guys. Half of those games look like and over-40 men’s league.

    • mvktr2 - Feb 25, 2014 at 9:25 AM

      Pretty much my thoughts exactly. MLS is physically a top tier league, it’s where a lot of players coming into the league get into trouble. Run fast – play hard has it’s merits. Beyond that Henry has alluded to the challenges of both parity which you don’t really see anywhere else in the world and of rosters limited by the salary cap. ‘Work-A-Day’ types still find a home on MLS rosters not as an anomaly but as a necessity.

      Also what do you expect him to say? He’s had no problem opening his mouth before but in general it’s what you’d expect. I take it also as truth but with a grain of salt. I trust my own eyes and my eyes tell me MLS as a whole struggles with what every non-superclub type team struggles with … scoring goals consistently. Our best teams with 3 DPs and solid rosters go through long cold spells. Winning the Supporters Shield is still a huge accomplishment even with an unbalanced schedule.

      Finally Henry touched on something very important to US Soccer. Everyone’s complaining about Manaus in the winter time,(not really much of a winter in the tropical jungle) but many fail to grasp that during July-mid Sept Houston & Dallas along with soon to be sides in Orlando, Miami, and Atlanta is exactly like playing in Manaus with a very similar humidity and often times even hotter temp.

      Indeed, it’s not an easy league and it’s my league! May get frustrated with MLS sometimes but it’s my league! It isn’t the most technical but it’s my league!

  2. firewolf777 - Feb 25, 2014 at 2:41 AM

    Compared to top leagues, the mls is more open and diverse, any team can take a win at any moment.

  3. charliej11 - Feb 26, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    The biggest thing is there are very few games off.
    Playing at Arsenal, on an undefeated team, against other teams that are MUCH worse….is a lot easier than needing to bring it every Sat.

    Add to that travel, and good quality of play, it is a very competitive league.

    Can’t wait for the season to start.

  4. depewdickson - Feb 27, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    Personally, I’m tired of defending MLS to futbol elitists. MLS is my league and the one I will go out of my way to watch. I know the quality of play is not like Champion’s League or Copa Libertadores, but it is MY league and it’s the one I watch.

    During WC94 many of the visiting team coaches and players moaned about the travel stress of Boston to LA, the stifling heat of Dallas and the South in general. That’s us. We play in it and deal with it. It doesn’t stop the big Euro teams from coming over here in the Summer, playing exhibitions, and raking in concession dough.

    Altitude, equitorial heat and humidity, torrential rain are all equal challenges to international team play. Play the ball where it lies.

  5. jw1stibroxgoal - Feb 28, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    As a league the MLS has a much more even player talent spread vs European Leagues with 4 or 5 super teams and the rest being very ordinary.

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