Today will be the big media introduction in New York of the MLS' biggest signing since David Beckham: French striker Thierry Henry. As far as media events go, it won't hold a candle to the extravagant Los Angeles Galaxy welcome of Beckham. Given the failure of the overall Beckham Experiment, this is a good thing.
The timing of Thierry Henry's arrival to the media cosmos that is New York City would have been alright except for a couple of sports items from the last few days: 1.) The humiliating exit of France from the 2010 World Cup and 2.) The death (and corresponding media frenzy) of Yankees' owner and svengali: George Steinbrenner.
Major League Soccer had the right idea. This Henry signing has been in the works for over two years now. The month-long 2010 World Cup was going to be a temporary boost and would need to be followed very soon after with something to keep those Americans who watched the USA in South Africa at pubs across the country focused on soccer.
Henry's play here stateside will be far more indicative than any 100° MLS All-Star Game friendly against a European power like Inter Milan or Tottenham Hotspurs. If he leads the league in goals by the time the playoffs start, we'll know for certain what most people suspect - that the quality of play league-wide holds no candle against any of the main European leagues.
If he's less successful, it will be a dud locally for New York's Red Bulls - a club with a new Soccer-Specific stadium to attract fans to: Red Bull Arena (named after Bruce Arena?). But something that the Red Bulls do have going for them: new, pre-economic downfall ballparks CitiField and Yankees Stadium that have out priced a lot of NY-area sports fans in these more dicey economic times. It's not quite the same thing that happened in Seattle with the loss of the NBA Supersonics and the hugely successful arrival of the Seattle Sounders FC. But it is a backlash trend that will further the MLS' popularity 14 years after its inception. After that whole LeBron James ego-fest that we all endured here stateside, soccer might be a nice balm for a lot of disappointed Knicks' fans.
All of this will be forgotten once the Jets and Giants begin their NFL season.
For Thierry Henry, after a difficult World Cup qualifying experience (Hand of Gaul against Ireland, anyone?) and a season on the bench in Barcelona, he will bask in the relative anonymity that he will experience on the road in places like Salt Lake City, Kansas City and Frisco, Texas. Pelé's soccer savior descendants continue their plight in the United States of American Football. Vive le fútbol.