HARRISON, N.J. – Kenny Cooper finally got his moment on Saturday, but he was more than pleased to give it away to the son of the man who inspired him.
Cooper broke out of his scoring slump and helped lead the Red Bulls to 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, scoring his first goals in nearly two months in a triumph that pushed New York back into first place in the Eastern Conference.
The headed goals were both eerily similar and came on each side of halftime. But maybe more importantly, they helped end a scoring drought for Cooper that stretched all the way back to May 23.
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“For strikers, there will be phases during a season where they don’t score in six, seven, eight weeks,” Backe told reports after the match. “But everyone knows that strikers are on the pitch to score or set up goals and for the confidence, of course, the two headers [are important].”
Cooper admitted after the match that his inability to find the back of the net in recent weeks was something he had given some thought to. After all, Cooper had scored 11 times in the club’s first 13 games this year.
“It’s something you may be aware of, but it’s important to stay positive and keep believing,” said Cooper, whose 13 goals this season trail only San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski (17). “This team, you can be confident that we’re going to create chances. Fortunately, I was able to get on the end of some today.”
Aside from scoring two goals, Cooper also delivered a touching moment after he nodded home Connor Lade’s first-half cross.
After celebrating the tally with his teammates, Cooper took off the black armband he and the rest of the players wore in memory of Jack Reyna, the son of former US men’s national team great and Red Bulls star Claudio Reyna who passed earlier this week after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Then he held the band up to the crowd, who roared in approval.
“I wanted to pay tribute to Claudio’s son,” Cooper said. “Claudio’s been a personal hero of mine and he’s been so important for U.S. Soccer and also the team here in New York. Obviously, it’s an incredibly sad situation.
“I wanted to pay tribute to his son,” Cooper said, “and hopefully we were able to honor him and their family with our performance today.”