HARRISON, N.J. (AP) - Thierry Henry got into a New York state of mind for his Red Bulls debut, boarding a commuter rail train at the World Trade Center about 2 1/2 hours before his first match.
“I was on the PATH train with my friends and with all the fans,” the French star forward said. “For me, it was the quickest way to come to the game, and that’s how I came. It was cool.”
Henry then cooly scored in his inaugural match for his new team, getting a goal midway through the first half of a 2-1 exhibition loss to old rival Tottenham on Thursday night.
“It was amazing to see the fans, walking with them to the stadium,” he said. “I would say that the reception was tremendous every time I touched the ball.”
Henry scored after Estonian national team regular Joel Lindpere played the ball through the legs of defender Alan Hutton, familiar to American fans for his confrontation last season with U.S. forward Jozy Altidore.
A former Arsenal star who left Barcelona to sign with Major League Soccer last week, Henry cut in front of Verdan Corluka at the 6-yard box in the 24th minute and put New York ahead when he slotted the cross past goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini.
“He’ll be a massive hit here in New York I’m sure,” Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said. “He’s a world-class player still. He could play on any team in the Premier League in England. He’s still good enough.”
Robbie Keane, tightly marked by Tim Ream, tied the score in the 62nd minute, tapping the ball into an open net after Andros Townsend’s corner kick was fumbled by goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who replaced starter Bouna Coundoul at the start of the second half.
Jeremy Hall then headed a backpass in the 72nd under pressure from Gareth Bale, who intercepted the one-hopper and put it past the dismayed goalkeeper.
A 32-year-old with a French record 51 international goals, Henry is the highest-profile player to join MLS since David Beckham signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy three years ago. A World Cup and European champion with France, and a Champions League winner with Barcelona, he lost his place in Barca’s starting lineup last season and decided to move to New York, where he long wanted to live.
“He was a tough player over there,” Keane said. “I’m sure he’ll be a tough player over here, as well.”
Playing his first match since France was eliminated from the World Cup with a loss to South Africa on June 22, Henry showed the quick pace and scoring instincts that made him a star since he first became a regular with Monaco in the mid-1990s. He played the first half, and had some deft, quick exchanges with Lindpere. He had a freeing backheel pass and a bicycle kick that went wide.
Just as important for the Red Bulls, he helped draw a crowd of 20,312 _ about 5,000 short of a sellout, to Red Bull Arena, the $200 million stadium that opened in March.
MLS spokesman Dan Courtmanche said Adidas is projected to sell 50,000 Henry Red Bulls jerseys this year, second in MLS history behind the slightly more than 300,000 David Beckham Los Angeles Galaxy jerseys sold when he arrived in 2007.
“This is a massive, massive impact for us,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said. “But to be realistic, too, one player can’t in a way change the team totally. He needs his teammates around him to feed him with the right killer passes.”
Henry scored 226 goals for Arsenal from 1999-07, topping the Premier League in scoring four times, and said last week he is reluctant to even speak the name of Tottenham, the Gunners’ north London rival.
He’ll have to wait to pair with Juan Pablo Angel, who missed the match because of a sprained ankle.
Ten Spurs were missing following World Cup duty, including forward Peter Crouch and regular goalkeeper Heurelo Gomes. Cudicini returned during the preseason after injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash while en route to training in November.
Red Bulls supporters sang “Chelsea reject!” at him.
“Fantastic,” Redknapp said. “Where did they get that one from?”
Notes: While on loan to Sunderland last April and playing against Hull, Hutton threw the ball at Altidore, who responded with a head butt that earned him a red card and a season-ending suspension.
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