To no one's surprise, Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls announced the signing of former Arsenal, Barcelona and French National Team star Thierry Henry today. While many view the acquisition as the East Coast equivalent of David Beckham's arrival with the Los Angeles Galaxy, there are reasons to think Henry will pay greater dividends for his new team.
By announcing his retirement from Les Bleus on the same day, Henry showed a noteworthy commitment to the Red Bulls that Beckham did not. Beckham's Galaxy honeymoon ended when he started pining for a spot back on the English National Team. Between the mid-season trips from L.A. to London and Fabio Capello's insistence that Beckham needed stiffer club competition if he was to return to the Three Lions, the arrangement was shaky almost from the star. If Henry is sincere in his desire never to play for France again, (and why wouldn't he be after this World Cup) the Red Bulls have the full attention a solid player.
Henry is no longer in his prime, but he still has much to offer. Think of this as when a still-serviceable Shaquille O'Neal joined the Miami Heat, not when an over-the-hill Shaq joined the Cleveland Cavaliers. Henry comes with one goal in mind- helping the Red Bulls win. He's not in town to help his wife become the next reality TV star or to sell underwear. He likes New York and he should fit in well with a rapidly improving Red Bulls team playing in one of North America's top stadiums.
MLS doesn't need another Beckham-type figure to help soccer "make it in America," but they do need a player who will give the Red Bulls relevancy in America's biggest media market. If Henry helps the Red Bulls compete for championships and scores some goals along the way (preferably without the use of his hand,) he'll become one of the most important figures in the league's brief history.