Could this fellow make another Emirates Stadium return? (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
According to a report from The Washington Post, the New York Red Bulls are weighing an invitation from Arsenal FC to participate in the Emirates Cup, a friendly competition hosted by the Gunners at Emirates Stadium in London. The Red Bulls do not yet have any games scheduled between their July 23 clash with FC Dallas at Red Bull Arena and a trip to face Real Salt Lake on August 6th, which should leave them available to compete in the Emirates Cup, usually held on the final weekend in July or the first weekend in August.
The Emirates Cup, first contested in 2007, has featured Real Madrid, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Olympique Lyon, and Valencia, among others, although Arsenal have won three of the four editions to date. The competition includes four matches (two for each team) over two days, with the winner determined by the highest number of points after their two matches; an extra point is added for each goal scored.
Should the Red Bulls accept Arsenal's invitation (although neither side has confirmed that any kind of approach has been made), the main story would certainly be Thierry Henry's second return to face his former team. Henry spent eight seasons with the North London side and scored a club record 226 goals before departing for FC Barcelona in the summer of 2007. He first returned to face the Gunners in a 2009-10 Champions League quarterfinal, coming on as a substitute and receiving a warm welcome from the Arsenal fans.
However, the Red Bulls may have another option for high-level friendly competition over this summer, as the 2011 World Football Challenge will include MLS teams. With SuperLiga effectively dead, the Red Bulls now have some open midweek slots when they may have expected to have games in that competition after qualifying for it by virtue of their regular season finish in 2010.
Any mid-season friendly football carries inherent risks for the Red Bulls, a largely aging team with some injury-prone stars (Henry first among these). Despite the allure of participating in a very prestigious friendly competition, the Red Bulls will have to be careful not to overstretch their players, particularly given the lengthened MLS season.