HANOVER, N.J. – FC Dallas forward Kenny Cooper is quite familiar with scoring goals at Red Bull Arena, but the New York Red Bulls are planning on leaving that as a thing of the past.
The Red Bulls are set to host FC Dallas on Sunday in a match that will pit Cooper against the team for which he scored an impressive 18 goals last season before being surprisingly traded to the Hoops this past February. The memory of that trade might give Cooper some added incentive heading into his return to Red Bull Arena, but the truth of the matter is that the veteran forward is not enjoying anywhere near the same level of production this season for FC Dallas as he did last year with New York.
Still, the Red Bulls know better than to sleep on Cooper and his goal-scoring prowess.
“Kenny is one of the best goal-scorers that I’ve ever played with in my career,” midfielder Dax McCarty told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “He’s a guy that when given a chance, he’ll probably bury it more likely than not. He hasn’t had the season that he’s wanted to have … but with that being said, he’s going to have a little extra motivation for this game, playing his old team, having something to prove, coming back to Red Bull Arena.
“It’s going to be a big game for him and you have to be wary of him. No other way to put it.”
Cooper’s inclusion in FC Dallas’ starting lineup is no sure thing. He has not started for the Hoops since late July and has been limited to just 82 minutes in the club’s last seven games.
Scoring has not really been an issue for FC Dallas in those matches, so it is unlikely that Cooper starts on Sunday. But with Dallas in desperate need of a win to keep themselves in the playoff picture in the Western Conference, head coach Schellas Hyndman could turn to Cooper off the bench if FC Dallas are in need of a spark.
“He’s an honest player, he’s a hardworker and he has a nose for the goal,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s similar to a lot of forwards in this league where you just have to be aware of him at all times. You can’t turn your back on him, specifically in the box, because he’s a guy that one second he’s here and the next second he’s a couple steps in front of you and finishing a one-time cross.”
Should Cooper see the field, the Red Bulls are ready.
“With Kenny, who’s about 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, you can still kind of body him up a little bit,” right back Brandon Barklage told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s going to be a presence in the box, but he also has some good feet, so we have to be aware of that. I look forward to seeing him, beating up on him in the game and hopefully we come away with the three points.”