He's not gone yet, and maybe he'll stick around for another season after this, but Thierry Henry is entering the final year of his contract with RBNY. 2014 could be his last run with the Bulls in Harrison. And if that is the case, he'll be missed.
Not, perhaps by everyone. He is certainly the best known player in the squad, but not the most loved. His table is always the busiest at meet-the-team events, but he doesn't project the win-or-die-trying passion of a Tim Cahill, nor is he possessed of the patience and good humor to reliably provide a good interview, in the manner of Dax McCarty. We know Arsenal will always be his first love; RBNY is merely a way station on his meandering effort to return to North London.
Nonetheless, between the tedious debates about his commitment whenever he evades the post-match media scrum or skips a game on turf, Henry has bound himself to the history of this club over the past three-and-a-half seasons.
Statistically, (thank you, MetroFanatic, for your wonderfully curated team statistics) Henry has already built quite a record. Last season, his 100th appearance for the team was blighted by being the club's umpteenth bungling of a playoff run. The game is cruel that way: a landmark moment for Henry, who became just the 20th player in the history of this team to hit the three-figure mark for appearances in all competitions, ruined by Houston Dynamo's irksome knack for winning in the playoffs. Fortunately, his last game of 2013 was not his last game for RBNY.
In terms of minutes played, again in all competitions, Titi should crack the 10,000 minute club sometime this season. He needs about 17 more full games to do so, and will join a select group - currently only 9 strong, and including the likes of Amado Guevara and Mike Petke. (Stat Tangent: Dax McCarty and Roy Miller might join the 10K club this year too.)
He arrived, of course, embodying the promise of goals and trophies. Though he has not managed to live up to the wildest expectations of the fan base -- score in every game; win every cup -- he has delivered double-digit goals in each of the last three seasons, and led the team in assists the past two years.
On the all-time, all-competitions scoring list, he is currently fourth with 42 career strikes for RBNY. It is unlikely he'll notch another 21 to surpass Juan Pablo Angel as the club's greatest goal scorer, but he should claim second place on the list this season. He's only two goals behind Giovanni Savarese's career haul (44) and three back from Clint Mathis's mark (45).
His increasing value to the team as a playmaker, both as set-piece-taker-in-chief and from the run of play, has catapulted Henry up the ranks of RBNY's leading assist-makers. On that list, he is currently tied for third with Dane Richards, each having 30 assists to their name. He's nine short of the club's all-time leaders - Amado Guevara and Tab Ramos - which is tantalizingly achievable, even if Henry only has one season left to do it.
It is doubtful, however, that Titi much cares about his statistical place in the club's history. Most of the records he cares about were secured at Arsenal, now reciprocated by a statue. But he does care about trophies. And history will forever remember Thierry Henry as the captain of the first RBNY team to capture a real, serious, honest-to-goodness cup. Fine...it's a shield. Whatever -- it's ours and Titi helped us get it.
His place in RBNY's history is assured, but the stats and the trophies aren't really the reason to celebrate Thierry Henry's late-career dalliance with New York. The main reason to do so is simple: he's a lot of fun to watch.
If this is to be Henry's last year with RBNY, let us hope for a few moments like these...
Titi's Top 5 Goals at Red Bull Arena
5. The One That Showed He Cared: April 16th, 2011 - vs. San Jose Earthquakes.
Not his prettiest goal - a rare header - but one of his most important.
It was only the fifth game of the 2011 season, but the pressure was building on Titi. His arrival precipitated the departure of club legend Juan Pablo Angel, and Henry's failure to form any sort of meaningful partnership with RBNY's all-time leading scorer had somewhat dampened the enthusiasm for his presence at the club.
Nor did Titi appear to be the replacement for Angel that had been advertised. By the time this game rolled around, it had been 13 games and seven months since we'd seen Henry score in a Red Bull shirt (against Colorado in September 2010). Fans were underwhelmed. Chants of "au revoir" occasionally broke out if Titi strayed too close to the South Ward to stretch his bothersome Achilles after yet another fumbled opportunity.
The word was Henry was unfit or unmotivated, certainly under-performing. This match, played in a monsoon to a half-empty stadium, did not seem the stage for the once-great man to lift his game. Nor did he. RBNY won the game comfortably, thanks to Luke Rodgers ceaseless running, but Titi's touch in front of goal was, if anything, worse than usual. Rodgers, having been set up by Henry earlier in the match (for his second goal of the game), devoted himself to trying to coax his strike partner into form. To no avail.
Until the 87th minute. Rodgers - bless him - found space on the right hand side of the area, ignored a promising run by Dane Richards or the option to carry the ball forward himself, and instead launched a cross toward the far post -- to the space he hoped would be filled by Thierry Henry.
It was. Henry nodded the ball home, and immediately strode to the South Ward. He was enraged. He was profane. He was marvelous.
I haven't questioned his commitment to RBNY since. This was the goal (or rather, the celebration) that proved Titi came to New York to do work.
4. The Hot One: July 18th, 2012 - vs. Chicago Fire.
Bad weather and poor form have an odd way of combining to bring out the best in Henry. This match was played under the relentless sun of a mid-week, mid-summer afternoon. The few fans in attendance suffered through triple-digit temperatures, united with the players in sweaty resentment of whichever over-caffeinated scheduling meeting wished this abomination on the club.
Henry had started 2012 with nine goals in the first eight games, but injury derailed him. He hadn't scored since the end of April. He would have been forgiven for not scoring in this match, for which the clear priority was simply avoiding terminal dehydration.
But score he did. In the 71st minute, Sebastien Le Toux hoisted a cross from deep - because this was definitely a day to let the ball do the work - switching play from right to left. Henry glanced the ball off his chest, let it bounce high off the grass, and whipped a first-time shot across the face of goal. The ball ricocheted off the far post and into the net.
On a day when merely sitting in the stands was exhausting, the players were largely going through the motions, reliant on muscle-memory and reflex. Fortunately, for Titi, genius is a reflex.
3. The Olimpico: September 15th, 2012 - vs. Columbus Crew
The game is in injury time. RBNY clinging to a 2-1 lead. A corner offers the chance to burn a few more seconds. The home team sends just three men into the box, wary of being caught on the counter-attack. No one, for New York or Columbus, is bothered with the far post. Except the corner-taker, Thierry Henry.
He lofts his kick over all the players crowding the near post. High, over the 'keeper's head. And he watches from the corner flag. Watches, urging the ball to curl back toward goal as it drops out of the evening sky. It does. Clipping the far post, making victory certain.
2. The Bike: May 8th, 2013 - vs. Montreal Impact
In 71 games for RBNY, Markus Holgersson registered one assist. It was a good one: a flick on to the far post which found Titi with his back to goal and in the mood for magic. Was it a bicycle kick? A scissor? Perhaps, merely an overhead kick? Who cares? It was beautiful.
1. The One That Told Us It Would All Be OK: October 27th, 2013 - vs. Chicago Fire
The last game of last year's regular season. RBNY needed a win, at home, to claim the Supporters' Shield. To win the club's first ever major trophy. To alter a hitherto unblemished history of failure - often gallant, occasionally abject, always fruitless.
The team was in good form: it hadn't lost a game at home since June; hadn't lost a game at all since August. One more home win - how hard could it be?
Too hard. At least, that seemed to be the case when Mike Magee silenced the Arena in the sixth minute. 1-0 to the Fire. Another chance to bring a trophy home to Harrison going down in flames.
Not this time. We waited 18 uncomfortable minutes for the equalizer, but it was worth the wait. Peguy Luyindula launched a long ball over the top toward his captain. Henry controlled with his chest, let the ball bounce, and laced a shot to the top corner of Sean Johnson's goal from outside the box.
It was emphatic. It was confident. And it sent a message from the captain to his team and its fans: we got this. Because we got Thierry Henry.
Your favorite moment missing? Throw down in the comments!