There's No 'I' in Kenny Cooper

The Red Bulls may only be eleven games into the 2012 season, but already Kenny Cooper has more goals than his 2011 campaign in Portland.

Cooper surpassed his eight-goal total from last season when he buried the game-winner in Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Union to give him his ninth, the forward’s highest total over the past three seasons. Despite the minor accomplishment, “Coop” was quick to shrug off all credit following the team’s training session Tuesday afternoon at Montclair State University.

“My focus is on the next practice, the next game,” he said. “Those are important things. I want to make positive contributions to the team when I’m out there.”

He has, without a doubt, done just that since joining the league in 2006. The Baltimore native has accumulated 56 goals over 135 appearances, officially joining the 50-goal club in the Red Bulls’ March 25 home opener against the Colorado Rapids. Minus half of the 2009 season and all of 2010, in which he played overseas for German side 1860 Munich, Cooper has done his damage on the pitch for FC Dallas, the Portland Timbers and more recently the Red Bulls.

It was while in Dallas that Cooper tallied 18 goals during the 2008 season, a career-best that culminated with a runner-up bid for the MLS Golden Boot, behind only Landon Donovan’s 20.That year, Cooper was also the only player to top 100 shots (119), 60 of which were on goal.

Cooper Scores his 9th

“I was around, like this year, a bunch of great players. The passes I was getting were just incredible. As a forward, it’s great to have that feeling of confidence in the guys around you; that they’re able to see you and to find you,” he said. “I felt that way that year in Dallas and I certainly feel that way this year with this group of guys.”

Many pundits felt the injury to Thierry Henry would damper Cooper’s production as the lone striker in a 4-1-4-1 formation or perhaps require time for chemistry to develop alongside another forward in 4-1-3-2.

Evidence has shown that is hardly the case. In three matches without Henry as his partner up front, Cooper has notched two goals and tallied 10 shots, regardless of the formation.

“Thierry’s quality is obvious. It’s a great privilege to be out there on the field with him. His vision, the execution of his passes, are just incredible,” Cooper said. “When he’s not with us, it’s obviously a huge loss, but in saying that we all have tons of confidence in Thierry’s ability to do things out there, but I also do in the other guys out there. They’ve done a great job. We’ve gotten some great results.”

Admittedly it’s still early in the season and a bit unfair to draw comparisons to any previous goal totals, but it is safe to say Cooper is maintaining a steady pace in his production.

When asked whether he foresees a goal total that may surpass his 2008 finish, the towering 6-foot-3 forward was humble as ever in his response.

“The important thing is the result of the team,” Cooper said. “We’ve been winning games, which is great, so as a team we’re on a great run and I hope that’ll continue.”

Cooper and the Red Bulls return to action Saturday when they take to the road for a 7:30pm ET kick against the Montreal Impact (watch on MSG). Red Bull Arena will play host to the May 23 match against Chivas USA, the final match leading into the MLS break for Euros. New York maintains a healthy 4-0-1 record at home this season, thanks in part to the fans’ ability to help make Red Bull Arena a “fortress” for the club.

Join the rest of the screaming fans on May 23 for as little as $20 per seat. To secure your tickets, visit Red Bulls Ticket Central or call 877.RB.SOCCER.