Henry keen to help build Red Bulls identity

FORT LAUDERDALE - Thierry Henry is enjoying life in the United States, but the former France and Arsenal striker wants to see his New York Red Bulls team develop an identity around playing attractive football.

Henry, who joined the Red Bulls midway through last year's campaign, is eager to help his team perfect the art of short passing like the teams he played on at Arsenal and Barcelona did earlier in his career.

"I am a believer in passing the ball on the ground, I was lucky to be part of teams like that at Arsenal, with the French national team and with Monaco and at Barcelona," Henry told Reuters in a recent interview.

"I know you can win in other ways but I believe that is the way football should be played. Hopefully we can do the same thing, maybe not at the same level of Arsenal or Barca, but that is what we want to do."

Henry, Arsenal's all-time leading scorer, said his focus for the upcoming Major League Soccer season will be to mentor his younger Red Bulls team mates as much as improving on the two goals he scored in 11 games with the team last year.

"Don't get me wrong, I still love scoring and I hate to lose but now I see myself more as making players play better," said Henry. "Sometimes you do what you have to do and you have to perform, that is still there. But in my mind I am thinking about making the guys around me play better."

Henry struggled to capture his full fitness and form last season, which he said was "too short" a time to make a full impact, but is eager to help give his team an identity that will be easily recognised around the North American league.

"It is quite important, whatever identity you want to have for your club, it is important to have one, to say the Red Bulls play this way," he said. "When you see Barca or Arsenal home or away they play the same way. That's what we want to do - we want to have a Red Bull way."

Henry made the switch to Major League Soccer in 2010 after three years in Spain with Barcelona and felt that not everyone in Europe sees the promise in the North American league.

"People were telling me not to expect too much from the league but I remember playing against Real Salt Lake, we didn't touch the ball much, they were passing the ball around, playing good football," said Henry. "Dallas, the (Los Angeles) Galaxy it is the same. They want to pass the ball and play good football."

But while some Europeans may not give Major League Soccer much credit, Henry is comfortable with his decision and even says he is particularly relishing the frankness of discussions in the United States and the different attitude shown towards top athletes.

"I'm enjoying it. I am more than proud to be European. I love Europe, I love France but I have an American mentality and I don't know why," said Henry.

"The way I see things, the way I talk, I'm the kind of person who if I want to say something I will say it and sometimes in Europe that's not always what you need to do.

"There is also that thing where people know that you have worked hard to get something, people have respect for that here. You worked hard, good for you. Sometimes in Europe, there is a kind of jealousy you know."