Gold Cup: Panama's Cooper admits MLS interest, Pérez mum

Panama winger Armando Cooper.

Photo Credit: 
MexSport

TAMPA, Fla. — MLS fans watching the USA vs. Panama match should pay particular attention to two players wearing red on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer, TeleFutura). They both could be playing in the league in the near future, if you pay attention to the rumor mill.

First there’s winger Armando Cooper (above), who will be wearing the No. 11 shirt. There were reports from Panama that he was on the verge of being acquired by the New York Red Bulls.

“I almost joined the Red Bulls,” the 23-year-old confessed after practice at the University of South Florida on Thursday. “Things didn’t pan out, but we’ll wait to see if something happens and, if it’s in the USA with the Red Bulls, I’d be happy, or if not, I’ll be happy with whatever team takes me.”

The Árabe Unido winger, who MLS fans may remember from the club’s matches against MLS opposition during the CONCACAF Champions League, hasn’t entirely lost hope that a deal may yet be worked out. He looks at the Gold Cup as an important showcase for him with an eye toward a potential future move.

“I don’t know what the reason was that I didn’t go," he said of his potential move to RBNY, "but I hope the executives of my club or [New York], if they still have interest in me, that they can come to an agreement on things. Every player wants to play on a big team and we know the Red Bulls have a lot of big name players like [Thierry] Henry and [Rafa] Márquez. It would be great to be part of that team.”

Cooper started on the right wing and switched positions with the left winger during the course of the first match against Guadeloupe, a 3-2 Panamanian victory.

His teammate at forward on the night, veteran Blas Pérez, has also been linked to MLS after concluding a season as top scorer of the Mexican second division with Léon. The 30-year-old, who scored another Gold Cup goal against Guadeloupe to take his all-time tournament total to seven, was less committal with his response to the rumors that included his name.

“I don’t know anything about this,” Pérez told MLSsoccer.com. “I am open to listening [to offers], but right now my mind is to play in the Gold Cup and on Saturday beating the United States.”

The forward, who has played in Colombia, Spain, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates, revealed that his rights are currently held by Tigres UANL of the Mexican first division and that any deal would require both player and club to be in agreement.

When asked if he felt his style could fit well in MLS, his answer was of the confident and succinct variety, the type you’d expect from a guy whose job is to bury goal-scoring chances for a living.

“I’ve played in all parts of the world,” Pérez said. “I don’t think it’s that tough to play here [in the United States].”