The Red Bulls’ potentially fluid feelings toward striker Kenny Cooper stands out as one of the many interesting elements for exploration now that Mike Petke is officially in charge around Red Bull Arena.
The team just finished a preseason training stint in Bradenton, Fla. Cooper scored in a 2-0 win over Columbus where both clubs started (but certainly did not finish) with something that looked like a first-team assembly.
Cooper was a second-half sub as Petke chose to partner Josue Martinez with Thierry Henry up front for the Red Bulls. (The complete lineups and game report from New York’s side is here from Big Apple Soccer.)
The club had once seemed determined to trade their 18-goal scorer from last season. Take note, because rarely do we see these words strung together thusly: “Determined to trade their 18-goal scorer.”
Will that change now that Petke has a bigger say?
Cooper is as nice and easy to get along with as the day is long. But he tends to freelance on the field, and his failure to closely follow instruction has frequently confounded coaches going way back. It has probably hindered his professional relationship with Henry – and that’s dangerous considering the Frenchman’s influence around Harrison.
Still, an 18-goal scorer is just that. There have been exactly two of them over the last four seasons: Chris Wondolowski and Cooper. Cooper also struck 18 times back in 2008. Including that year, only Cooper, Wondolowski and Landon Donovan have found the 18-goal mark over the five-year stretch.
So let’s watch and see what happens as Cooper and the Red Bulls move through their preseason.
The Red Bulls return today to New Jersey, where they spend a week before traveling into Arizona for the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup.