By FRANCO PANIZO
NEW YORK — Thierry Henry is as competitive a player as there is in MLS and New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke loves that.
A former fiery player himself, Petke admires Henry’s relentless desire for perfection and the 37-year-old head coach believes it does more good than harm in the locker room despite what some sections of fans and media believe. Henry, the club captain, has been accused of being too intense and cut-throat but Petke sees those traits as positives.
“Listen, I know the perception that many people have of Thierry and I can honestly understand why, you see him 90 minutes a week pretty much and you hear about certain stories here and there,” said Petke at the Red Bulls’ Media Day on Monday night. “The one thing about Thierry, that’s a player you want on your team. He’s a guy who demands excellence. Could it go overboard sometimes? Well, I look at him like as a Michael Jordan, as a Wayne Gretzky, any one of those type of players that always come with some sort of people saying they were ‘too this, too that’. Well, how do you think he got to the level he’s been at?”
Petke added that Henry’s attitude will also help him this season – his first as a head coach – when it comes to having to coach some of the rookies and younger players on the squad.
“If I have him working after practice like he does almost every day,” said Petke, “and I have a rookie or a second- or third-year player walking off the field, you could grab them by the neck and say ‘If that guy over there who has accomplished everything in the world is doing the extra work, where the hell are you going?’”
Here are more notes from RBNY’s Media Day:
MEARA RECOVERING BUT STILL NO TIMETABLE ON RETURN
The Red Bulls are five days away from starting their 2013 campaign and they are doing so with a somewhat unsettled situation at goalkeeper.
Ryan Meara, who is at worst expected to be the back-up netminder for New York this season, did not play in any of the Red Bulls’ preseason games and has not yet been cleared by the medical staff to fully return to action after having had season-ending surgery on his hips in fall 2012. Petke said Meara is close to being given the green light but did not offer a timetable as to when the Fordham University product would be able to partake in a complete training session.
“We’re at the mercy of the medical staff. They know what’s best,” said Petke. “I’m not a doctor so the one thing I can do is ask medical how he’s doing, this and that. He’s doing better and every day he’s growing and I know he’s anxious to get back on the field. The biggest mistake is to throw him back on the field to early and (then) the last five, six months would be a waste.”
Meara’s absence leaves the Red Bulls in a tough situation, as the Red Bulls will apparently head into their season opener on Sunday against the Portland Timbers with a proven starter in Luis Robles but a backup goalkeeper in HomeGrown player Santiago Castano that is just 17 years-old.
Petke said the club is exploring all possibilities but added that spending some of the salary cap on a player who may only temporarily be around makes it tough to add another piece before the start of the season.
“The one thing with the rules of the league, most players that you want to sign have to be guaranteed and then all of a sudden Ryan comes back and you have three goalkeepers that are here (under guaranteed contracts),” said Petke. “We’re looking at the right situation. We’re comfortable right now going into Portland’s game with the pieces we have.”
NO DECISION MADE ON LUYINDULA YET
Peguy Luyindula, the former Paris Saint-Germain forward who has been trialing with the Red Bulls in recent weeks, was not at the jersey event at Chelsea Piers on Monday but that does not mean he has been turned away by the club.
Petke did not delve too much into the 33-year-old Luyindula’s current standing with the Red Bulls, but he did reveal that the Frenchman will continue to train with the club in the coming days and possibly weeks in an effort to convince them to sign him.
“Like any player that is brought to our attention that we feel is somewhat of interest, he’s going to be with us and we’re going to see what he’s got and make a decision at some point,” said Petke.
Luyindula was not overly impressive in the games he played in at the Desert Diamond Cup, but Henry stated that part of that is likely due to a lack of fitness and sharpness. Prior to joining the Red Bulls for preseason, Luyindula had not play in a competitive game since last October and has not trained with a team since parting ways with PSG in December.
“Wherever you are, you need to have some training sessions in your legs and some hours of work in your legs to be able to perform,” said Henry. “I don’t care who you are and how skillful you are or not, you’re going to need to be able to run for 90 minutes.
“I think where he is right now that’s all he needs, he needs a bit of work and then see. Obviously, I’m not in a position to give him a contract or whatever, but all I can say is that right now as he didn’t do anything for a month because he’s been released by Paris Saint-Germain, all he needs is, like when I first arrived (in 2010), some training sessions and then you’re going to see him perform. He’s a good player. I don’t have to even say it. He’s had a good career.”
What? Should the Red Bulls run the risk of not signing another goalkeeper? Think Luyindula will earn a contract offer?
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