OBETZ, Ohio – Leandre Griffit is happy fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry has joined Major League Soccer, but the Crew midfielder is disappointed by the timing.
Henry signed a multi-year contract with the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, but isn't expected to make his debut until July 22 at Red Bull Arena in a friendly vs. Tottenham Hotspur – and not on Saturday against Griffit and Columbus at Crew Stadium with first place in the Eastern Conference on the line.
“I’d love to play against him,” Griffit said.
The Crew and Red Bulls don’t meet again until a possible matchup in the playoffs. Griffit liked the idea and offered a challenge to New York, who trail the Crew by two points.
“I know we will go [to the playoffs]," Griffit declared, throwing down the gauntlet. "I don’t know if New York will go.”
There's a good chance Henry could see the field before Griffit, who signed with the Crew on May 13 but has played just 14 minutes in a US Open Cup match.
Griffit, 26, said he was like many players in his country that idolized Henry, even though the former Arsenal and Barcelona star is only six years older than he is. The pair conversed several times when Griffit was with Southampton from 2003-05 during their run in the Premiership and Henry was with Arsenal.
“We would talk after the games,” Griffit said. “He was always nice to me and we had good words. It’s a very good thing he is coming to MLS. He is a very big player. He is very big all over the world. People think he has a big head because he shows arrogance. I do not know that about him. He was very respectful.”
Griffit also thinks Henry has taken too much criticism for his handball goal in November that played a key role in France qualifying for the World Cup and kept Ireland from going to South Africa.
“He is a striker," Griffit said. "His job is to score goals. If he [were] in England, they would say he did it for his country, he did it for his team. In France, they don’t see it that way. I don’t understand that. France is weird, no?”
Henry played little in the World Cup and France exited in disgrace after the first round. But Griffit told MLSsoccer.com after Les Bleus' first match that he thought the team was in turmoil and didn’t get along with each other or the coach.
“I didn’t know it was that bad,” he joked. “At the end I was saying I am Mexican.”
He thinks fans will be excited to have a player of Henry’s caliber in the league.
“It is good for American football,” Griffit said. “I think Thierry will be happy with the football that is played here and will want to play just a hard as he did just like before. I think he will do well.”