Thierry Henry gives a jersey, gets a handshake
While they are one of the most celebrated clubs in MLS, when fans think of the New York Red Bulls, the name Thierry Henry is probably the first thing that comes to mind.
Portland Timbers coach John Spencer had very little to say about the star striker after Sunday night's 3-3 draw at Jeld-Wen Field, though.
'I could care less about how Thierry Henry played,' Spencer said. 'He has nothing to do with me. He's not my player. I'm not here to watch Thierry Henry. I'm here to watch the Portland Timbers. I couldn't care less.'
• Although Spencer was not moved to sing Henry's praises, the 33-year-old Frenchman put on a dazzling performance against the Timbers. He was a game-changer.
When he didn't have the ball, Henry walked around the pitch like a caged panther waiting to be unleashed.
When Henry got the ball, his touches were gorgeous. The backward kicks to teammates and the way he seemed to send the ball wherever he wanted without trying was different than perhaps any player who has ever stepped onto an MLS pitch.
Henry's ability to act as a decoy was critical to New York taking a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute. Then, with the Red Bulls as good as dead while trailing 3-1 in the second half, Henry brought New York back to life with a 73rd-minute goal.
Henry gave all the credit for the comeback to his club.
'Somehow, this season we always fight back and come back into the game,' Henry said.
Henry said that if Portland's Jack Jewsbury hadn't missed a penalty kick in the 76th minute, 'and with all the opportunities they had in the second half, they would have won and they should have won. But sometimes football is a funny game.'
•• Henry's greatest moment on Sunday might not have come during the run of play. It came when he was red-carded in stoppage time after a small scuffle with Timbers defender Adam Moffat.
Henry pleaded his case with the official for a moment, but refused to make a spectacle of himself.
'I was a bit (mad) because we were losing and the way we were playing in the second half,' Henry said, of how he felt after the red card. 'But that's the way it is. (What I did for the red card) was nothing bad. You can see it on TV. I don't want to comment on it. You can make your own opinion of it. But the ref gave me the red, it is the referee and I have to go. The ref is always right, right?'
Before leaving, Henry shook hands with all the Timbers players in close proximity to him. He even tried to shake hands with the referee, Ricardo Salazar. At first, Salazar refused to shake Henry's hand.
'The ref, he didn't want to shake my hand for a very long time,' Henry said. 'I just said, 'Shake my hand. It's not a big deal. You gave me a red card, the least you can do now is (shake my hand) whether you think I was wrong or right.' '
Henry continued to insist that Salazar shake his hand. The referee finally give in and shook hands with the French superstar.
'He did at the end there, because I came back again,' Henry said.
••• After the match, Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe stood by his locker, staring down at Henry's No. 14 uniform, looking like the kid who had caught 'Mean Joe' Greene's uniform in the old Coca-Cola commercial.
'He told me he'd give it to me after the game,' Nagbe said. 'He came back out and gave it to me.'
Though Nagbe did not go up against Henry very often in the match, he left with a good impression of his childhood hero.
'I wasn't around him too much,' Nagbe said. 'But he definitely seemed like a nice guy.'
Nagbe couldn't conceal how much it meant to him to receive Henry's uniform, though he did wish it could have come under different circumstances.
'He's my favorite player,' Nagbe said. 'He's been my favorite player since I started playing. It was just great playing against him. If we had won, it would've been better.'
•••• Overall, Red Bulls defender Stephen Keel - who played for the Timbers Division-2 side last season - was happy to be in Portland again.
'It was good,' Keel said, of the homecoming. 'The game was pretty crazy. At the end of the day, (after) being down 3-1 and having our captain sent off, we'll take the point. For me personally, it was good.'
The Timbers Army cheered Keel when his picture appeared on the video board before the match. The warm reception did not last long, though. The next time Keel's picture came up was in the 67th minute, after Keel knocked in an own goal.
As play began after the goal, a chant of 'Timbers reject' arose from the crowd.
Keel tried to take the insult in stride, and he wouldn't talk about how the chant made him feel.
'You know, the fans support their team,' he said. 'As far as the animosity and things like that, putting my face up on the board after the goal, we'll leave it. I'm not going to address that.'