September 29, 2012
Striker's brace snaps 41-day scoreless drought in Red Bulls' 4-1 win
By Michael Lewis
|Kenny Cooper struck for a brace on Saturday night.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- Kenny Cooper was at his goal-scoring and self-effacing best after the Red Bulls polished off Toronto FC on Saturday night.
He had struck for a brace, the first time he had found the back of the net in a competitive match in 41 days, or since the 3-2 win over the Portland Timbers on Aug. 19.
"I think it might been more difficult ot miss than to put in," he said.
He was probably right because both goals were scored on open nets. But he wasn't going to give those goals back, which gave him a team-best sweet 16 this season.
If Cooper was relieved, he wasn't letting it on.
"I'm happy we won," he said. "Obviously whenever I'm out there I want to give my best, take the opportunities that I have."
His first opportunities came in the 27th minute after the Red Bulls overcame yet another early deficit. Ryan Johnson had given Toronto a sixth-minute lead, but Markus Holgersson headed in Thierry Henry's corner kick -- the first of his three assists -- to equalize in the 13th minute.
Cooper completed a nifty scoring play.
Left back Wilman Conde started the scoring sequence, arching a diagonal pass to an unrushing Lloyd Sam on the right flank. Sam sent the ball to Henry who was sprinting toward the goal with Toronto defender Richard Eckersley in tow. Just as Eckersley crashed into goalkeeper Freddy Hall, the former French international Cooper, who had an easy tap-in into an unattended net for his 15th goal and a 2-1 Red Bulls lead.
With time running out in regulation, Cooper took advantage of some more of Henry's amazing skill as he wound up with a clear net and slotted home the ball for a vital insurance goal that gave the host a 3-1 advantage.
Henry and Cooper complement each other so well.
"I think that guy has eyes on the side of his head, the back of his head," Cooper said. "It may not matter where you are, his vision, execution of passes are just world class. I'm not sure he was able to find me out there. Maybe he's assisted on 98 percent of the goals I've had this year. I've got to give him a huge thanks. What can I say? He's exceptional."
"He's world class. He showed so much quality today. It's a such privilege to line up alongside him on a Saturday and to train with him on a daily basis. He's amazing."
Cooper enduring four scoreless matches since he celebrated one of his own goals. Last week he never got off the bench in the Red Bulls' 1-1 draw at the New England Revolution, which is rare for such a dangerous goal-scorer as Cooper.
Given his attitude, he wouldn't criticize coach Hans Backe for benching him.
"We have a great team," he said. "We have a deep squad. It's great to see so many people contribute throughout the year. we've been unfortunate with injuries throughout the year. So many guys have stepped in and done such a great job. I understand I am part of such a deep squad, full of talented players. My mindset is to stay positive all the time, and give my best for the team, whether I am coming off the bench or starting in the first minute."