I think it’s fair to say that today may end up being an MLS Tuesday. There’s a fair amount of interesting Designated Player rumors floating around with the MLS transfer window opening up on Thursday. The most prominent one featuring Thierry Henry’s seemingly imminent addition to the roster of the New York Red Bulls.
The French forward was released from his contract with Barcelona last month after a disappointing run with the Spanish champions, but he looks to make a return to form against a decidedly weaker American league. Has he lost a step? Of course, he’s not close to the level he was in his Arsenal days, but he becomes the best player to ever suit up for the MLS the second he steps foot on the pitch at Red Bull Arena. Despite what some detractors are saying, having him in the league is a good thing.
I can understand the argument that the MLS should focus on the development of young talent as opposed to serving as purgatory for former stars nearing the end of their run. I appreciate the basis of the argument, but neither side is mutually exclusive. Why can’t the league do both?
It’s hard for a league to market itself without a star or a guarantee of a star for an extended period of time. The young stars that come through the league never seem to stick around (nor should they), in order for the talent to grow they need to advance through to better leagues. So what star, what draw could the league attach its brand to other than guys who will not be leaving anytime soon?
I’m not embracing the idea that the trajectory of the league should be half young studs and half geriatrics here, but combining a few of the older guys with a relatively young roster only aids in the further development of talent, which is really the league’s primary focus. Can you imagine an 18-year old kid on a roster with a guy like Henry? How could the kid not become a better player for it?
Besides all of that, and most obviously, we finally get to see some of these guys that we’ve only watched on television or read about. That’s exciting to me, I’m already trying to gear up to see Henry play at least once.
These combinations of factors can only end positively for the league, so the argument that we shouldn’t embrace these players just falls flat to me.