April 14, 2012
Red Bulls' dynamo duo could turn into the best one-two punch in MLS history
By Michael Lewis
Thierry Henry is on a pace to score 49 goals.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Here we are five games into the season and the Red Bulls have not one, but two players going at more than a goal-a-game clip.
You've got Thierry Henry, on one of the great tears in Major League Soccer history, leading the 19-team league with seven goals (and with four assists, to boot).
You've got Kenny Cooper, who certainly is giving the Red Bulls a bang for minutes played with six goals in 342 minutes; in other words, he is scored at an amazing rate of a little more than a goal in an hour.
Let's face it, it's early and they are not going to keep up the pace (if they did, Henry would finish will almost 49 goals, Cooper with 42).
But they have gotten off to an incredible start, one of the few times that teammates are one-two in the scoring race in the 17-year history of the league.
Barring someone getting injured or a long scoring drought, this could be one of the more intriguing dynamic duos in MLS history.
Two questions come to mind:
* Can they become the best one-two punch?
Yes they can. The most dangerous duo, at least statistically were D.C. United's Raul Diaz Arce (23) and Steve Rammel (14), who combined for 37 goals during the 1998 season. United reached the MLS Cup that season, losing to the Chicago Fire, 2-0. Would the Red Bulls love to duplicate that? You bet they would.
* Can any of those two players catch Roy Lassiter, who tallied a record 27 times for the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996? That is the golden number in league history.
My gut feeling? Probably not. Putting Lassiter's feat into perspective, it was a different time in MLS history. Defenses were just learning to play together in the league's inaugural season (not that Lassiter was a lethal goal-scorer). If one of the Red Bulls do, it could be one memorable season for the team.
With the quick start, 20 goals certainly are not out of the question for at least one of the two strikers, if not both. That is a more realistic target because that barrier has been broken only nine times since the league kicked off.
How difficult a feat is it? No player has broken the 20-goal barrier more than once.
* Tampa Bay Mutiny's Roy Lassiter (1996) -- 27 goals
* Columbus Crew's Stern John (1998) -- 26
* Tampa Bay Mutiny's Mamadou Diallo (2000) -- 26
* LA Galaxy's Carlos Ruiz (2002) -- 24
* New England Revolution's Taylor Twellman (2002) -- 23
* D.C. United's Raul Diaz Arce (1998) -- 23
* Galaxy's Eduardo Hurtado (1996) -- 21
* United's Luciano Emilio (2007) -- 20
* Galaxy's Landon Donovan (2008) -- 20
In case you were wondering, Juan Pablo Angel holds the Red Bulls' record with 19 goals in only 24 games in 2007, one of the best strike rates in MLS history.
If Henry and Cooper continue to score at a decent rate, this season certainly can become a fun and productive one. It will probably mean more wins for the Red Bulls and less headaches reaching the post-season (even if they drop down to a goal every other game apiece in the remaining 29 matches, Henry would finish with 21, Cooper with 20, still quite lofty numbers).
Like I said, it's early. So many things can happen: Injuries, scoring slumps, getting out of rhythm, hot goalkeepers, excellent defense from opponents, poor service from teammates, suspensions, coaches decisions.
It will be difficult for anyone to keep up that scoring pace, even with two talented strikers.
But it is also difficult not to speculate about the Red Bulls' dynamic duo and possibility of a record-setting season.
For now, let's enjoy the show, a show that the league hasn't seen on many occasions.