When the heart and soul of the team goes down, who steps up?
Thierry Henry doesn't make excuses.
Whether you look at not-talking-to-the-mediagate after the season opener against FC Dallas or his statements after the team's dismal 4-1 loss against D.C. United, Henry doesn't point to injuries or lack of fitness or the team trying to gel as reasons for losses. Where Hans Backe coddles players, protecting them for the all-too-easily-attainable ire of fans and the scrutiny of the media, Henry, holds them accountable.
That's why Henry is unquestionably the leader of this team. It's why he wears the captain's armband.
But now that he's out, and could be out nearly a month, it's time to see whether or not the Red Bulls have taken his leadership to heart.
Whether the team goes with a 4-5-1 with Kenny Cooper alone up top or a 4-4-2 with Juan Agudelo (and Jhonny Arteaga until Agudelo comes back) is irrelevant. That they're playing an LA Galaxy team that's skilled, but hasn't got their game together yet, is irrelevant. What matters is if the Red Bulls answer the bell
A 5-0 drubbing would validate all the detractors who say the team has no heart. A gutsy performance, regardless of result (though points are the most important thing), would go a long way to showing the world they have what it takes to sort of, maybe, kind of finally bring home a trophy, something Backe said the team had to do this season during the winter.
In order to prevent "injuries" from becoming this year's "Gold Cup" the team has to rally. Red Bull Arena isn't devoid of talent outside of Henry. Cooper scored 40 goals in 90 games in MLS before heading to Germany. Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards aren't slouches either. Dax McCarty showed what he can do in a defensive role against the New England Revolution this past weekend.
They have the ability to step up. Now will they?