Friendly rivalry for Revolution
FOXBOROUGH — The Revolution’s Frenchmen are getting into the spirit of the Boston-New York rivalry. And Ousmane Dabo and Didier Domi will have a chance to make their contribution to it in tonight’s game against the Red Bulls at Harrison, N.J.
The focus of their attention has been Thierry Henry, an old friend and former teammate who joined the Red Bulls last year. Since Henry is a basketball fan, they have been able to needle him by noting the Celtics’ success against the Knicks.
“He goes to see the Knicks, and I told him, ‘We beat you,’ ’’ said Domi. “It was funny.
“Hey, it’s New York and Boston. He’s more into New York and I’m more into Boston. Not because I’m in Boston, not to please people, understand? I like it because it’s not too big, not too small. I’m good in my Boston.’’
Dabo and Domi apparently don’t need Henry’s courtside seats at Madison Square Garden or his $15 million, 5,000-square-foot penthouse. They may have performed under the spotlight in Athens, Barcelona, Milan, Paris, and Rome, but a humble existence in the suburbs of Boston suits them now.
Of course, Henry is a premier goal scorer, probably the highest-profile player to join MLS. He is taking in $5.6 million in salary and is expected to lead the Red Bulls to the MLS Cup. Dabo ($200,000) and Domi ($150,000) have had successful but lower-key careers, and they are expected to bring leadership as role players to the Revolution.
So much for égalité. But the bonds of fraternité remain.
“I’ve known him since we were 15,’’ said Dabo. “We played together on the Under 20 and 21 teams, the national team.
“He’s the same now as he was then. He was always an incredible player. When we were young, you could see he was going to be one of the best in the world.’’
Domi and Henry are of Antillean descent, born in the outskirts of Paris. They met on the soccer field in what was essentially a youth league, Domi from Sarcelles, Henry from Les Ulis.
“He is from a tough neighborhood south of Paris,’’ Domi said. “But he has never changed. That was 20 years ago — it is hard to believe.
“We had very good teams and we were together through Under 21, then I didn’t make it [to the senior team]. All of us, [Nicolas] Anelka, [David] Trezeguet, we’re still like little kids when we see each other. There’s that special connection.’’
And the relationship paid off for Domi when France defeated Brazil to win the 1998 World Cup in Saint-Denis, close to his home north of the city.
“Thierry left me four tickets,’’ Domi said. “I was with Paris Saint-Germain and I remember just getting back from Aix-les-Bains, and going straight to Stade de France with my mother, brother, and a friend.’’
Henry has scored six goals in 10 games, and though the Red Bulls have struggled, they are second in the Eastern Conference. Coach Hans Backe has used an effective combination of journeymen Europeans, role players from the region, and marquee performers Henry and Rafa Marquez.
But several Red Bulls will be missing for this match, a potential advantage for the Revolution, who have scored only twice in the last six matches and have the lowest goal total (10) in the league.
“We haven’t been able to keep the ball,’’ Dabo said. “We have to work more as a team.’’
“We have been trying to concentrate a lot on that this week,’’ said coach Steve Nicol. “Not any more than we normally do, just try to emphasize it — if we do possess it, we’ll get chances.
“When you’re not winning games, there’s a confidence factor in there. You do things without thinking about it, and it just flows. When you’re not winning games, natural things become uptight.’’
The Revolution signed midfielder Ryan Guy, who will not be with the team for tonight’s game. Guy played four seasons at the University of San Diego and was drafted in 2007 by FC Dallas in the second round (22d overall), although he chose to play in Ireland.
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.