[INTERVIEW] Thierry Henry made his MLS debut for the Red Bulls in a 2-2 tie with Houston last weekend, and on Tuesday Mexican international Rafael Marquez trained with the team for the first time. Veteran defender Chris Albright, a former member of the Galaxy when it signed David Beckham, believes New York is clearly challenging the status quo.
SOCCER AMERICA: Rafael Marquez trained with New York for the first time on Tuesday. How did that event compare to the arrival of Thierry Henry a few weeks ago?
CHRIS ALBRIGHT: Today was really our first little glimpse of Rafa Marquez and his first training session with us, so there wasn’t so much ceremony, so to speak, with him. He’s just so technically good, you can see that in one training session. It’s really exciting. These guys are going to help us in different ways.
SA: You went through the arrival of David Beckham when he joined the Galaxy three years ago. Was there a lot of hoopla when Henry got on the field with you for the first time?
ALBRIGHT: He’s a world-class player. He made the transition really easy, with how down-to-earth he is. He’s really easy going. He loves to talk about the game, he really took to the guys, he was instantly open and personable. As far as that transition with a superstar, he kind of made it easy on everybody else.
It honestly hasn’t been overwhelming. I also have the Beckham thing to compare it to, and it’s totally different. It pales in comparison to the circus, so to speak. That has such a negative connotation, but it’s just different. David, being the first big European guy to come over was a big story, and now more guys are coming over.
SA: And Henry doesn’t seem to have lost a lot of the ability he showed for more than a decade for France and teams like Arsenal.
ALBRIGHT: I don’t know if he was ever World Player of the Year but he certainly should have been. [Henry twice finished second in the voting.] Here’s a guy who’s won everything and who’s been there for a decade a more, a guy who a lot of us grew up watching and either rooting for him or against him, depending if you’re a fan of Arsenal or Manchester United or whoever.
David is a celebrity on a different level. On our second day of practice, Thierry said to me, ‘Today is the last day I have to do any interviews, driving around to all the studios and doing the local TV and all that stuff. I can’t stand it. I’d rather be out there playing.’ I can’t speak to Rafa Marquez yet because it’s only been a day, but as far as Thierry is concerned he’s made it so easy on his teammates and the organization fitting in, as hard as that might be for a guy of his stature in the game.
SA: He made his MLS debut last weekend against Houston in a 2-2 tie and most times when you guys crossed the halfway line you got a chance or narrowly missed setting one up. How much of that is due to his influence?
ALBRIGHT: On the field he’s very unselfish. In that game, he set up both goals, and even in training, defenders are kind of spellbound wondering what his next move is. He’s good at finding the open guy, or beating you off the dribble, or just slowing the game down to keep possession. There aren’t a lot of players who can do all three, and he does all three very, very well. That makes the game a lot harder for the opponents.
We’ve been solid defensively. There were two penalties -- the first one shouldn’t have happened, the second was a penalty -- and then they scored a good goal. Besides that, we were solid, and the red card [to Dynamo midfielder Lovel Palmer] made it easier, but I think our job in the back becomes easier if the guys up front can create chances and score goals. Your job back there is simplified.
SA: It’s taken Red Bull only a few months since the adoption of new Designated Player rules to max out with three. That’s a pretty clear statement of the organization’s ambitions.
ALBRIGHT: Red Bull has really pushed the envelope. Guys around the league have called me and asked me what it’s been like and if we’re going to dominate the competition. I think we have a good chance now to be the favorite in a lot of games. There’s so much parity in our league and games can go either way based on so many little characteristics, guys like that can really make the separation greater in the style of soccer, and hopefully results.