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September 21, 2012
Backe has 'little bit of a concern' over striker's recent performances

The last time Kenny Cooper scored as a starter was on July 21.
The last time Kenny Cooper scored as a starter was on July 21.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said he was a bit concerned about the recent play of striker Kenny Cooper.

Cooper struggled and did not look like himself in his last two matches for New York, which included a 3-1 win over the Columbus Crew last Saturday and the 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night.

"Yes, it a little bit of a concern right now because Kenny is a guy who should be in the box, in the 18-yard all the time for crosses and tap-ins and whatever it is," Backe said during a teleconference call on Friday.

Cooper, who leads the team with 14 goals, came on for right midfielder Dax McCarty at halftime on Wednesday. He played at striker while Tim Cahill, who started the match up front, moved closer to the midfield.

"We didn't control the game early on. When Kenny came on, we had a lot of possession," Backe said. "I think that should help Kenny when we control the game. We had a number of crosses and final passes for him. So it was a little bit of a concern. It's always with strikers. Sometimes they don't score in five, six, seven, eight games and suddenly they swtart scoring again. It is a little bit of a concern."

Cooper last scored for the Red Bulls as a substitute in the 3-2 home win over the Portland Timbers on Aug. 19. The last time he found the back of the net as a starter was more than two months ago -- in the 2-0 home victory over the Philadelphia Union on July 21.

As it turns out, with Thierry Henry not playing against the New England Revolution on Saturday, Cooper is an option to start up front. Given his recent history of road lineup choices, Backe probably will use a one-man striker up top.

"We have some options," Backe said. "We have a good roster now, we have good players, starters on the bench. We can start [Sebastien] Le Toux, Kenny Cooper. We can still [use] Tim as a striker, a second striker with one of Kenny and Le Toux. We have a session soon and I will make a decision."

Lloyd Sam replaced midfielder Joel Lindpere in the 69th minute and showcased his speed down the flank and with some crosses to Cooper.

"He was sparkling, definitely," Backe said. "He is a good who can take players on with crosses. He is lively. Not quite sure yet if he is ready to start a game and how much he can play. He will be there soon. He is definitely banging on the door, and probably could do 45 or 60 minutes, I would guess. You really never know."
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