Red Bulls coach Backe: Red-hot Cooper still improving

Kenny Cooper celebrates

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HARRISON, N.J. – Earlier this season, the New York Red Bulls striker that was in red-hot form was Thierry Henry. Now, it’s Kenny Cooper.

Cooper is coming off another goal-scoring performance for the Red Bulls, having netted the equalizer in the club’s 1-1 draw versus Chivas USA at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night. The goal marked the fourth straight game in which Cooper has scored and gives him a total of 11 on the season, tying him with San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski for the Golden Boot.

WATCH: Cooper equalizes off feed from Richards

“He deserves it,” Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said after the match. “He’s a hard, hard worker. Every game, every training session, and of course he has good guys around him who can feed him with the precise passes. I still think he has a lot to learn. I think he can improve.”

If Cooper can improve as much as Backe seems to think, the rest of the league better watch out. Playing in his first year with the Red Bulls after being traded to the club in the offseason by the Portland Timbers, Cooper has shown an enhanced overall game while finding the back of the net with the type of frequency that could smash his career high in goals scored in a season (18 in 2008 with FC Dallas).

Not one for individual praise, however, Cooper attributes his success this campaign to the guys playing around him.

“My teammates have been finding me,” said Cooper. “There’s just so much quality in this team. Obviously, having an opportunity to play with Thierry up top is a great privilege. His qualities are incredible and he, along with the other guys out there, are doing a great job.”

Cooper’s goal-scoring ways are also starting to bring up the discussion from fans and pundits alike as to whether the Red Bulls forward is worth another look with the US men’s national team. Cooper has not represented the United States in just over two-and-a-half years – his last appearance was on Oct. 14, 2009 when he came off the bench in the 2-2 draw vs. Costa Rica at RFK Stadium that gave the Americans a first-place finish in CONCACAF qualifying – but he is hopeful he will get another opportunity in the near future.

“I’d like to be a part of the national team in the future, and when I’m not with them, I’ll be a fan of them and wishing them the best,” said Cooper. “I have not been involved in a long time. My hopes are that there are more national team opportunities in the future for me.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com