Real Salt Lake stole the headlines, but it’s actually New York who’ll likely look much, much different after Monday’s dealings. They got three potential new starters, used up a bunch of their cap space, and sent a big signal that the league’s second-leading scorer is up for grabs.
Here are three initial thoughts on the dealings:
1. Kenny Cooper is likely back on the trade block
Fabián Espíndola sees himself as a starter, and isn’t going to like coming off the bench. Cooper will say the right things in public, but feels the same way.
But Cooper’s probably not going to be in New York much longer. There have been trade rumors roughly since Thierry Henry encroached by about 12 yards, and they’ve only heated up in the weeks since.
So whether it’s right or wrong, expect Cooper to be on his way out of New York, which means somebody out there can probably get themselves an 18-goal scorer for pennies on the dollar. Put it down as “likely” that Philly, D.C., Dallas and maybe even Sporting KC have noticed as much.
If I were Andy Roxburgh, though, I woudn't trade Cooper to another Eastern Conference team. Decisions like that have a history of coming back to destroy New York.
One thing to consider, however: As part of the Kosuke Kimura trade, Portland reportedly waived a "re-signing" fee New York would have had to pay if they keep Cooper on. So there's at least one data point that says Cooper's not going anywhere.
2. They’ve put a lot of eggs in the Jámison Olave basket
Olave’s a dominant physical presence when healthy, which has been less and less often over the past three years. In 2010 he played 2,400 minutes; in 2011, 2100; and in 2012, just more than 1,700. He’ll turn 32 next year and, while his straight-line speed is still great, his lateral quickness simply isn’t what it was two years ago. Wear and tear can do that to a guy.
But it’s a risk New York probably had to take. If they get lucky and Olave stays healthy for 30 games, their defense becomes one of the best in the Eastern Conference. It’s a big “if,” but it’s nice to see this franchise take a chance on MLS talent instead of overspending on an overseas “name” instead.
3. They’re handing the defensive midfield spot to Dax McCarty on a fulltime basis
They’ve gotta be, right? They waived Teemu Tainio and now they’ve gone and sent what must have been big allocation money to RSL and, one imagines, a somewhat smaller sum to Portland in exchange for Kimura and a second round SuperDraft pick (as well as Red Bulls Academy and University of Akron defender Bryan Gallego, who new Timbers coach Caleb Porter may know a thing or two about).
It’s unclear whether or not the coffer’s bare in NY, but they’ve taken on a lot of contract, still have DPs and a few more high priced vets to boot, and – most likely – very little room to add another central midfielder with enough quality to take minutes from McCarty. Yes, if Cooper and Sébastien Le Toux are shipped, that gives them more flexibility, but it also leaves them threadbare at forward. They’ll need to invest that money in the attack, since Henry and Espíndola are both injury-prone.
The wild card here is Georgetown freshman Brendan Allen, who helped get his Hoyas into the Final Four. He’s a big, strong, Conor Casey-type, and yes, the Red Bulls have his Homegrown rights. So maybe they’re counting on him coming in and providing real depth and a different look up top. It’s un-Red Bull like in principle, but then again, they’ve been more than happy to play guys like Tim Ream, Ryan Meara and Connor Lade right of college in recent years. So stranger things have happened.
Still, it looks like Dax is going to find his permanent home as a No. 6. Which, as a US national team fan, makes me happy, because he is very, very good there, and should be challenging Danny Williams for the starting job. A strong 2013 with the Red Bulls in that spot could give Jurgen Klinsmann plenty to think about.