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November 9, 2012
Henry allows sub to take 11th-hour free kick, Rafa gets another playoff red card

By Michael Lewis Contributing Editor

HARRISON, N.J. – In a big game, the Red Bulls biggest names and biggest salaried players were relatively silent. No moment signified that more than in the dying moments of Thursday night’s 1-0 loss to D.C. United in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

In the 92nd minute, a free kick at the top of the D.C. United penalty afford Thierry Henry the opportunity to take a chance to bend the set piece over the wall for the equalizer. Henry should have placed it right over the wall, a kick he has done here before on these very same Red Bull Arena grounds from far more difficult angles and distances.

Instead when the club’s highest paid player was needed the most, second half substitute and much maligned Roy Miller skied a kick 20 rows into the supporters section behind the goal. It typified a night where Henry did little to make an impact in a game that was screaming for his magic.

“I think probably, I would guess – I haven’t checked, typically could be an answer like, to surprise the goalie, expecting Thierry or Tim Cahill for the free kick,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said. “I would guess.”

It was the wrong move. When the team needed something special, they instead asked a role player to step-up and deliver. The Red Bulls got too cute and out-thought themselves and now they’re out of the MLS playoffs.

The Red Bulls boast the league’s largest payroll, more than $16.5 million they dish out in salaries is four times that of D.C. United. In moments like that, star players need to step up and perform and Henry should have taken that kick.

Miller has yet to score a goal in Major League Soccer in what has been three years in the league.

“Roy is a left-footed player, the angle is different for me on that side. With Tim we talked about – with Roy [too] and we wanted to surprise the goalkeeper,” Henry said. “Make them think I’m going to take it and Roy take it. That side is better for a left foot player to take it. It didn’t work.”

What also didn’t work was the Rafa Marquez experiment as the team’s second highest salary put in another baffling performance. Time after time the Red Bulls seem to give the troubled star a clean slate and time after time he has failed to deliver. Marquez is the third highest paid player in the league but Thursday night represented his second red card in six post-season games.

That kind of impact won’t move cans of Red Bulls off the shelf or even move hardware into an empty trophy case.

The return on investment in Marquez is minimal at best and his future with the team must be muddled at best.

“Right now we have some changes in the administrative posts,” Marquez said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be next year. We have to prepare for whatever is coming next year.”

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