Although the news has not yet been officially announced by the club (big surprise there), several sources are claiming that head coach Hans Backe has named Thierry Henry the new captain of the New York Red Bulls. The decision to hand the armband to the former France and Arsenal skipper came after club decided not to renew Juan Pablo Ángel's contract following the 2010 season. Ángel stood in as captain in the late stages of the 2007 season due to Claudio Reyna's injury problems, and took over the role in 2008 after Reyna's retirement.
Henry was not the only option to take over the captaincy; Carlos Mendes, currently the longest-tenured Red Bull, was a possibility, as were Estonian midfielder Joel Lindpere and Mexico captain Rafael Márquez. The former Arsenal striker is plainly the most talented player at the club and by far the biggest name, and it is more than possible that those two factors (particularly the latter) were the main considerations for Hans Backe in naming a new captain.
Looking around the team, Henry is far from the obvious choice. Lindpere's excellent first season and total commitment to the Red Bulls won over just about every fan in 2010, while the New Yorker and MetroStars/Red Bulls veteran Mendes would have been an attractive choice for many of the hard-core fans. Márquez could have been a brilliant choice, if for no other reason than that it would have annoyed fans of other MLS teams.
However, Henry is our captain now, so we'll have to get used to that -- and he will as well. Juan Pablo Ángel was an exemplary captain on and off the pitch; he led by example in his dedication and professionalism. He helped drag the club to its greatest heights, endured a horrific season but stuck with the Red Bulls, and is easily the best player (in terms of his performances) to pull on a MetroStars or Red Bulls shirt.
Thierry Henry has to live up to Ángel's example. He knows that he is guaranteed a starting spot when fit -- not only is he Thierry Henry, he's now the captain of the side as well. This must not lead to complacency, and he has to show the fans that he is worthy of the responsibility that goes with wearing the captain's armband. That is shown by giving all on the field, behaving the right way towards officials and fellow players, working hard to get through bad patches of form, and leading by example in his performances.
His time as skipper has already started (he captained the side in the friendlies against Atlante and Atlante's reserves), but we will get the first real glimpse at what a Thierry Henry-captained Red Bulls team looks like on Tuesday against Chivas de Guadalajara. With any luck, the Henry captaincy will be even better than Ángel's time with the armband.