The deep-lying forward position that provides the link between midfield and attack has been described in a variety of different ways in world soccer. The Italians described the role as the trequartista or literally, the playmaker. Others still call a player playing in this role as the “No. 10", the key man in charge of orchestrating attacks in the opposing half and shouldering the responsibility of creativity.
It might also be Thierry Henry’s role for the rest of the season.
Looking to spark more creativity and dynamism offensively, Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke moved his captain to a position closer to the center midfielders in New York’s 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire last Sunday. Still, being utilized in an advanced role, the defending Supporters' Shield winners hope that Henry can be the creative outlet the Red Bulls have lacked in the first few matches of the season by being on the ball more. Henry completed 41 passes against Chicago, compared to just 18 passes the week before versus Colorado.
“It's just a huge difference when [Henry] comes back and helps us possess the ball in [midfield],” Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty told MSG Networks after Sunday's match against Chicago. “He's still a guy that, in my opinion, is one of the best players in the league. He wants the ball. More times than not, he's not going to lose it.”
Henry wasn't the only Red Bull player that moved positions. McCarty was dropped deeper in midfield and played against Chicago in a holding duty. Tim Cahill, normally an orthodox box-to-box midfielder, was employed as a central striker. The midfield triangle of Henry, McCarty and Eric Alexander did better in keeping ownership of the ball against the Fire, with New York holding a 57-44 advantage in possession during the match.
While Petke admitted to making a slight alterations to the Red bulls' formation, the second-year coach remained adamant that the basic structure of his side remains the same.
“We’re still a 4-4-2 team if you want to put a label on it,” he said in a conference call Tuesday. “It’s just that the freedom for certain players, for instance, Henry, to drop back and be creative, and then the discipline for certain players like Dax to read that and drop in the hole is key.”
However, there are drawbacks in playing Henry deeper. While the former Arsenal man will have more influence on the game, he is farther away from goal and makes less use of one of his biggest strengths, his finishing in the penalty area. Nevertheless, the results in the match against the Fire provided encouraging signs to Petke.
“I like what I saw from [Sunday's match],” Petke told MSG Networks Sunday. “The combination play, the ball movement which we haven't seen a lot of. I'm not saying we're going to with it every game, but it's definitely an option now. “
A Look Ahead: Chivas USA
New York attempts to post its first win of the season Sunday when it hosts Chivas USA at Red Bull Arena in a match that pits last season's best team against MLS's worst. (Complete coverage starts at 2:30 PM on MSG)
It's been a tumultuous offseason for Chivas USA, as the club ownership was taken over by Major League Soccer. The rojiblancos hope that the change in culture in the front office will lead to a little more success on the field.
Chivas is led by former US men's national team captain Carlos Bocanegra and you can expect the center back to be matched up with either Cahill or Henry for most of the match.