KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Believe it or not, the New York Red Bulls needed Kenny Cooper.
Despite featuring one of the strongest forward corps in all of MLS with the likes of Thierry Henry, Juan Agudelo and Luke Rodgers, questions surrounding the latter two players made Thursday’s trade a necessity.
First, New York Red Bulls sporting director and general manager Erik Solér says Agudelo is in store for a busy 2012 between Olympic and US senior national team duty.
“He’s going to be away for a long time and we simply need to ensure that we don’t get in a situation where we have injuries and have no one to put on top,” Solér told MLSsoccer.com.
Also, Rodgers is not assured of being able to return to the country for the 2012 season after his one-year visa expired.
“We think it’s a good chance [Rodgers’ visa is renewed] but he had the [police] record before he came,” Soler said. “He has been absolutely fantastic when he’s been here. There’s no reason we think not to have that visa, but it’s still not on our table and we don’t want to take any risk. I think we’ll know in a couple of weeks.
So when looking for an insurance policy, Solér turned to Portland on Wednesday night and orchestrated the deal which involved a 2013 first-round pick and allocation money going to the Timbers. Cooper is a player Solér tried to acquire on behalf of Norwegian club Rosenborg five years ago, when Cooper went to 1860 Munich instead.
Although Cooper’s 2011 season proved he’s not a typical target striker, that suits Soler and the Red Bulls just fine.
“We don’t typically play a game where it’s very important to have a typical English No. 9,” Soler said. “We play the ball from side to side. We go on the wingers with [Joel] Lindpere and with Dane [Richards]. And we score goals from those positions and we are not too preoccupied by a typical No. 9. … I think he fits with our system probably better than he fitted their system and still, after that, he scored a bunch of goals last season and has proven that he can do it again.”
The Cooper move fits into New York’s budget, buoyed by a transfer of central defender Tim Ream which Solér indicated is “most probably” happening, and the club's top executive dispelled any notion that the trade points to an impending transfer for Agudelo or that Henry will extend his stay at Arsenal past February.
But there is a chance that Henry can stay for 10 extra days in a Gunners shirt. Soler said there was a three-party option in which the Red Bulls, Arsenal and Henry can all agree to extend the loan for an additional 10 days to allow for the Frenchman to feature in a league match against Tottenham Hotspur.
“That’s up to us to say yes or no to,” Solér said. “But any long than that has never been the discussion and it’s not going to happen.”