- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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HARRISON, N.J. -- Say this much for Thierry Henry: The man knows how to make an entrance.
Henry delivered in a big way in his debut with the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night, scoring his first goal in nearly three months in the first half of the team's 2-1 loss to Tottenham in the New York Barclays Challenge.
And he had a message to the fans behind the goal on the north side of the pitch after he scored.
"I'm here," Henry said he yelled at Red Bulls faithful. "I'll say it again: I'm here and I'm happy to be here."
The 20,312 on hand at Red Bulls Arena were all-too-happy to welcome the French star to Harrison.
Henry was greeted with a deafening roar during player introductions.
He was effective and efficient in his 45 minutes on the pitch. His touches were mostly precise and, at times, inventive.
The 32-year-old striker wowed the crowd in the 11th minute when flicked a ball with his back foot over Tottenham's Kyle Walker to give himself an open look, but his shot sailed wide. He deftly worked a cross in front of the net that was covered up by Tottenham keeper Carlo Cudicini in the ninth minute.
But, without a doubt, the moment of the match for Henry came 24:55 into the first half when he took a feed from midfielder Joel Lindpere in front of the net and made a sliding touch with his right foot to tip the ball inside the right post, past Cudicini.
Henry immediately pounded on his chest and growled after the goal. He then posed with his teammates and blew kisses to the crowd.
And why not? After all, the celebration was well-deserved. Henry last scored a goal on April 24 for Barcelona in its game against Xerez in the Primera Division.
The 6-foot-2 striker was pulled by Red Bulls coach Hans Backe at the end of the first half, replaced by Tony Tchani. And that's when things fell apart for the Red Bulls, who allowed goals to Robbie Keane and Gareth Bale in a ten-minute stretch of the second half to let the game slip away.
But the final result did little to dampen Backe's spirit. The coach was enthused after seeing an effective Henry on Thursday night.
"We're talking about a world-class player and this is a player who can make plays by himself. ... He can take players on one [on] one and that will make a difference," Backe said.
It was clear that Henry wasn't fully fit against Tottenham. He admitted afterward that he had difficulty making hard runs at the ball.
Henry, who signed a 4½-year deal with the Red Bulls last week, predicted that it would take "10-15" days before he was in game shape. He played a minimal role as a reserve for France in the World Cup and sat as an unused substitute in three of his last six games for Barcelona, which cut Henry last month. So it's understandable that he wasn't in top shape. He last played a game on June 22 in the World Cup.
"I'm trying hard to go back into fitness," said Henry, who practiced just four times prior to his Red Bulls debut. "I'm not fully fit to play 90 minutes."
The Frenchman seemed satisfied with his decision to come to the United States after his debut. He gushed about the team's 25,000-seat arena, saying it "felt like home" after the game. And, if Thursday afternoon is any indication, Henry already feels comfortable in New York. After all, he took the PATH train from Manhattan to get to Harrison.
"Just amazing," Henry said of his first night as a Red Bull. "I'd say the reception was tremendous. Every time I touched the ball, when I came out, when I scored. It is important for me to feel at home."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
Say this much for Thierry Henry:The man knows how to make an entrance.