Groups of New York Red Bulls supporters often criticize team captain Thierry Henry whenever he makes comments that are deemed to be unpopular. There are multiple reasons why this is the case, most notably the fact that it is a guarantee that Henry, currently the league's highest paid player, will miss several matches every Major League Soccer season. Henry again turned heads this past weekend when he commented on two subjects while speaking with reporters.
After thinking about it, I'd say Henry made some very valid points.
In a story posted on the official Red Bulls website this past Saturday, Henry was quoted as having said the following regarding the current heatwave that's hitting the NYC/NJ area, and New York's Wednesday afternoon home match against Chicago Fire (scheduled to begin at 1:00 pm ET): "With the heat, it's crazy, especially in (Red Bull Arena). I don't know if you felt it, it feels like someone does it on purpose or something. It's kind of way hotter there. The stadium keeps the heat, I don't know what it is but we're going to have to see how it is."
According to Brian Lewis of the NY Post, Henry had plenty more to say on the subject: "I don't know who put the time of the game we're going to play. Sorry, I'm not having a go; but playing at 4, playing at 1, are you thinking about the players? I don't know. We're having a heat wave. Having a game at 1 o'clock; if you want a great game and the team to run for 1 ½ hours, putting the game at 1 pm and whatever time the one against Philly is (won't help)."
Henry makes a valid point regarding the (lack of) quality of play fans watching Wednesday's match will see. I, however, am far more concerned with the safety of the players participating in that contest. The forecast as of the posting of this piece calls for temperatures in the high 90s, as well as a heat index of over 100 degrees. Some have speculated that it could feel as hot as 120 degrees on the pitch on Wednesday afternoon.
It's been a sad year and a half for the sport I love so dearly, as no fewer than six footballers have, in that time, suffered some sort of cardiac episode during matches. The Fabrice Muamba story continues to be nothing short of miraculous, but it cannot be forgotten that too many, including Piermario Morosini, weren't so fortunate. Former MLS and USMNT player Jimmy Conrad, who once experienced heat exhaustion during a league contest, also recently spoke out against summer afternoon matches.
Henry didn't just speak about the heat this past weekend. He also brought up the turf surface found at venues such as Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Revolution. Henry, known for sitting out contests played on turf, was quoted by the RBNY website as having stated: "That is the worst thing for any athlete, playing on turf. I mean no disrespect to the guys playing in the NFL and all of that. They are on the field for one, two seconds sometimes for a play. We run for one-and-a-half hours. That's not an easy one."
I understand why certain New York fans want the team's expensive designated players to start and perform in as many contests as possible. We were given a reminder of why Henry playing in such games may not be the best idea, however, when Toronto FC star and designated player Danny Koevermans tore his ACL this past weekend; in a match played at Gillette Stadium. I've said it before when discussing the matter, and I'll do so again here: I don't blame Henry one bit for not wanting to play on turf, and it's a serious issue that MLS and the league's clubs must fix as soon as possible.
No more excuses.