Soccerblog view: Thierry will have more impact than Beckham

Biggest reason: Thierry “Titi” Henry is not hyped as the saviour of the MLS. When you manage expectations better things happen. He comes here to win a title for the NY Red Bulls, not to be an Alexi Lalas ordained saviour of the sport.
One good thing, unlike Beckham’s contract which itself became a raging talking point with its potential to earn hundreds of millions of dollars through endorsements – competing with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Tiger Woods was seen as a sort of corollary to MLS success. Titi comes on a more subdued four and a half years on undisclosed terms. We are not talking about it, not as yet.
He is also healthy and injury free. There are no questionable ankle/knees/heels which twist or give out before the first match. The man can still shoot goals. Discount Titi’s disappointing last season at Barca, and you get a very impressive 31 strikes in 59 matches.
Mind you, he was competing with Leo Messi at his most devastating, the highly touted Zlatan Ibrahimovic and younger, hungrier strikers in Bojan and Pedro. Yet, he still remained productive in the best club in the world.
He has retired from international soccer. There is no danger running to Barca or Arsenal on loan to fulfill a coach’s criteria for national selection and returning to the MLS mid season – causing team mates through third party sources to question commitment and fans to lash out. There is no computation of continental miles affecting performance or saving himself for certain matches. The focus is entirely on the club and league. That is not true for Beckham who is now focused on Euro 2012.
Titi is not a perpetual brand or paparazzi target. It is soccer and not an underwear that defines him. This is not a step into landing advertising campaigns selling more jockstraps or to be featured in People magazine hobnobbing with Scientologists with impulse control issues in high falutin’ Hollywood soirees.
Some other more subtle reasons that could factor. He comes at a time when the USA has woken to the national team. Landon Donovan’s World Cup form is driving attendances through the roof for the LA Galaxy. There is a buzz generated in soccer which is driving a market of fence sitters.
What soccer needs are good old fashioned rivalries- the sort that the West Coast has been adept at. We can look forward to the LA Galaxy coming to NY bringing in record attendances. But Titi could expand the East Coast rivalries which has been limited to DC United and New England Revs. Some tetchiness between NY and New England could see the soccer version of MLB making it a prize ticket.
New York itself needs a bit of good cheer with LeBron James ditching the city for Miami- so having an international star swallowing those dastardly tax rates and coming to NY fills a void, albeit in a smaller way. Plus, if the Knicks do need help, Thierry Henry can lend them a “hand”. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. But seriously, other than baseball which is sacrosanct in NY and successful, all other sports have proved disillusioning. There are a lot of disenchanted fans who could be tempted into attending soccer matches.
Thierry Henry also benefits to a larger extent from having a better crossover into other sports, especially basketball. Steve Nash and Tony Parker are good friends and are actually outspoken advocates for developing soccer in the USA. This association can be potentially parlayed into attracting wider audiences for the sport.
Here is Beckham talking about Thierry Henry’s NY move amongst other things including his fashion sense >>
A compilation of Titi to whet your appetite >>

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3 comments on “Soccerblog view: Thierry will have more impact than Beckham
  1. i think you’re right, but i have to say i can’t see NYRB gaining much ground in NYC proper simply because they play in Harrison, NJ. nothing against NJ, and I’m sure they can fill seats out there, but part of the charm and mystique of NY baseball is that it’s community-oriented. At least in theory/historically. the Yankees (and to a much lesser extent the Mets) really feel like part of the city. RB Arena may be an easy PATH trip away, but I imagine most NYers don’t really think of it as very NY, and you kind of need that for the NY media machine to get behind you. it’s fine for the Jets and the Giants because it’s the NFL and the NFL is entrenched.
    i don’t imagine getting a stadium built out in queens or something would’ve been easy, and the taxes probably would’ve been prohibitive for a less lucrative league like MLS, but it’s really a shame the stadium isn’t closer to home. it’s not like it’s a 90,000 seater like the new meadowlands.

  2. Daniel, you have a point. NYRB maybe good for the bedsitters but for city dwellers it’s still a ride away. Hard to get behind a team outside the zip code. But that may change if the Red Bulls keep winning and bring more stars, albeit of an older vintage.

  3. Red Bull Arena is as close as the Devils new arena is, yet that hasn’t stopped thousands of New Yorkers from going to see them year after year, despite having a hockey team to watch in MSG.
    New York likes a winning team. The 20 minute train ride is not a problem.

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