Thursday, April 15, 2010

Docket # 14..The TFC case for Thierry Henry

After watching Toronto FC for the second time this young season, two things strike me. One this is clearly a team that is still getting to know each other on the pitch, you could see in some of the passes and the positioning guys are still learning their roles under the new Preki regime.

Second and possibly more concerning for the long term, is figuring out where this club is going to score goals. In the first 30 minutes of the game TFC showed little in the way of attacking prowess. Dwayne DeRosario was the only player who showed any creativity up front as they tried to grab a foothold in the game. It really only by the grace of a bad back pass by the Philly defender to the goalie and a stupid red card challenge on Julian De Guzman by the same defender, and a lounging challenge by the keeper in the box in the second half did TFC have any of its clear cut chances. Even with the introduction of Chad Barret , O’Brien White and playing with a man up you felt as though they were going to struggle to find a goal.

After the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed by both the Players Union and The league one of the new components that came out of it was the new 3rd designated player spot for each roster. Each team could buy that 3rd spot in order to sign a player over and above the league’s salary cap. For TFC this means the club could conceivably sign two world class players to the club roster without taking a hit on the salary cap. The aforementioned De Guzman already occupies one of those spots, but who should be TFC’s next DP signing? Well based on what I’ve seen from TFC this season, and also based on the endless talk of Barca striker/attacking winger Thierry Henry’s interest in coming to North America to play. TFC should make a bid for France’s all time leading goal scorer to dawn the Reds shirt.

Now as I see in my mind the foot snobs choking on their pints, hear me out there is more of a case for Henry to at least consider coming to hogtown. There is also a few massive reasons why making a bid for Henry makes both football and business sense for TFC. I list and explain my reasons below.

For Henry:

He gets his move to North America- Now the talk of the former Arsenal captain coming to the MLS coincides with comments that Henry made saying that he would like to try his hand in North America and that he loves New York. A couple of things he should consider before he runs with the Red Bulls. The team is coming off one of the worst seasons in MLS history (5-6-19 ,21 pts). Yes they do have a new stadium this year, however can it truly match the game atmosphere at BMO on a hot July afternoon? He’ll also have to consider that the stadium is nowhere near Manhattan where he likes to chill (It’s actually in Harrison, New Jersey) He’ll also have to decide which is the better Soccer market, and with all due respect to New York’s reputation as a massive city. In terms of Soccer it is slightly behind Toronto in terms of fans recognizing him.

He gets to spread the “Henry brand”- Let’s not be delusional he won’t be leaving Barcelona just for the football in the MLS, he’ll want to build a brand like Beckham. This slightly ties into the previous point with one massive difference. In New York he will have to be sold to the New York public, in a sense he’ll have to build himself up again. Unlike David Beckham who for the most part already had a big fan base in North America, Henry will have to build his brand practically from scratch. However in Toronto he’ll already be a recognized name. There are tons of Barca and Arsenal supporters in the city who will rally around him and bring those who don’t know with them to matches to see him.

Money- Anyone who is a sports fan in Toronto knows Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) has massive amounts of cash to spend/waste on talent. If you don’t believe me check out how much Jeff Finger and Marcus Banks are being paid not to play for the Leafs and Raptors respectively. The word out is that if Henry were to sign with NYRB it would have to be tied into an ad deal in which a big part of the contact is paid by advertisers, similar to Becks deal with L.A Galaxy. MLSE would be able to pay Henry practically anything he wants without the ad deals (Though I have a suspicion this would happen anyway). Plus with the percentage of the shirt sales Henry would get, he would be rolling in cash considering how fast his TFC shirts would sell out.


Soccer exposure- MLSE can use Henry to grow its continuing investment into Canadian Soccer. MLSE loves profits more than anything and this would be an exciting business opportunity for the company. CEO Richard Pettie and the board must have seen the numbers regarding soccer enrolment for youth in Canada. MLSE could grow the game and a loyalty to the TFC brand at a young age by signing and marketing one of the game’s greatest players over the past 15 years.

Sending a message- For the club it would send a message to the rest of the MLS that TFC are serious about winning and improvement. If you listen to talk about the club outside of Toronto the product on the pitch is not taken seriously at all, and for all the talk about how great the supporters are at matches it’ll mean little if the club continues to struggle on the pitch. Even if the club fails to sign Henry, it shows that the club is looking for the best talent out there and will make attempts to bring them to BMO.

On the pitch- Of course signing Henry does not guarantee immediate success on the pitch, however what it does show the players is that there is another level that can be reach through hard preparation. This eventually will rub off on the players, especially the younger ones and the academy players. This can happen even to the senior squad as those players will try to keep up with a legend. Henry also provides a legit goal threat some TFC has never really had on the pitch, say all you want about DeRosario but he’s not a striker. With Henry’s skill against MLS defense’s one can see him scoring 20 a season pretty easily.

Overall the task of signing a player of Thierry Henry calibre is a massive undertaking which in most cases would end up in failure. However this does not mean TFC should not try, if there are serious about making the playoff and becoming a dominate power in the league as Mo Johnston says they do then the gloves need to come off. It is time for MLSE and TFC to put their money where their mouth is and make the moves the supporters and the players want. TFC needs to sign a DP this season, and frankly why not shoot for the top?

No comments:

Post a Comment