UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Kenny Cooper is in good form right now, right behind teammate Thierry Henry atop the league’s scoring chart with four goals in four games.
But Cooper’s goal-scoring ways will be severely tested this weekend, as he goes up against former MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall and the stingy Columbus Crew defense.
The 6-foot-4 Marshall will provide Cooper one of his toughest matchups this season when the New York Red Bulls visit the Crew on Saturday (3 pm ET, Univision Deportes/watch LIVE online) in a game the New York hope end with them picking up their first road points.
Marshall’s combination of size, experience and skill has helped the Crew get off to a 2-1 start to the season, and Cooper is well aware of the problems the 27-year-old defender presents.
WATCH: Cooper finds the mark
“He’s been a huge success in the league,” Cooper told MLSsoccer.com. “I’ve been in a national team camp before with him and gotten to know him. He’s a competitor, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s intelligent. He’s definitely a player I have a lot of respect for.”
With Henry likely to continue his habit of dropping back to help link the Red Bulls’ midfield with the front line, Cooper should find himself isolated against Marshall for a good portion of the game.
At 6-foot-3, Cooper does have the size to be able to physically deal with Marshall, but it’s the forward’s mobility that is seen as a key to win that duel.
“Kenny is always mobile,” said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. “He runs channels and that is always difficult for center backs and big guys like Marshall, or if it’s [Danny] O’Rourke or [Eric] Gehrig that’s playing.”
How Cooper does against Marshall could go a long way in determining how the Red Bulls fare in their third road game of the year. Up to this point in the season, Cooper’s presence up top has created havoc for opposing backlines and opened up space for Henry – but he was used off the bench in losses at Dallas and Real Salt Lake.
That is what New York will need more of if they are to end not only their road woes this season, but also get their first win over Columbus since Backe was appointed head coach in 2010.
“Normally we’ve struggled against them away,” Backe said. “We know that they are a physical side, they are hard to break down, well organized.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com