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February 4, 2013
Red Bulls deal Cooper to Dallas for allocation money

Kenny Cooper has returned to play for FC Dallas.
Kenny Cooper has returned to play for FC Dallas.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

Despite scoring the second most goals in Major League Soccer, Kenny Cooper still could not retain a spot on the Red Bulls for this season.

The Red Bulls on Monday traded their leading goal-scorer from the 2012 season to FC Dallas for allocation money. Cooper, who found the back of the net 18 times, returns to Dallas, where he played from 2006-2009 and youth and high school soccer.

The deal should not shock anyone because the Red Bulls had been shopping around the 28-year-old Cooper since the end of the Major League Soccer season.

Cooper, who scored a team-high 18 goals, reportedly would earn in the neighborhood of $370,000 for the 2013 Major League Soccer season. That would save the Red Bulls a considerable amount via the salary cap. He earned $275,000 in a base salary and a guaranteed salary of $292,500 last season, according to the MLS Players Union.

“Due to salary cap restrictions and in order to balance our squad now and in the future, we have very reluctantly traded Kenny," Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh said in a statement. "The allocation money combined with the salary cap relief that we obtained will be vital for us to strengthen the squad in specific areas.

"Kenny, who is a great professional as well as an excellent person to work with, has been a very good member of our roster and we wish him every success with the next phase of his playing career. Kenny and MLS have been very supportive during this difficult process.”

Cooper, who played his high school ball in Dallas and almost attended Southern Methodist University, will probably feel much more at home in Frisco, where FC Dallas plays, for another reason.

Red Bulls captain and striker Thierry Henry did not always get along with him, although Cooper was considered one of the nicest players on the team. While the striker could fill the net with the best of them in the league, Henry felt Cooper did not take advantage of his 6-3 height and play as a target man. Cooper, who has decent quickness for a man his size, never was a target man.

On the other hand, Cooper was welcomed home with open arms by Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman.

“We’re really excited to have Kenny Cooper back in Dallas,” Hyndman said in a statement on the FC Dallas website. “When I first became the coach at FC Dallas, Kenny was our striker. He won the Golden Boot that season. He is a proven goal-scorer, a Dallas boy returning home to his roots. Kenny is a leader with exceptional character.”

Cooper last big play for the Red Bulls occurred in their elimination by D.C. United in the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals. Trailing 1-0 in the second leg, the Red Bulls were awarded a penalty kick as D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid was red carded for tripping Cooper just inside the penalty area in the 69th minute.

United coach Ben Olsen was forced to replace midfielder Branko Boskovic with reserve keeper Joe Willis for Cooper's penalty kick attempt. Cooper waited for Willis, inserted cold into the match, to make his move and he fired his attempt into the lower left corner in the 73rd minute.

However, the goal did not count as referee Mark Geiger ruled that players had encroached in the area during the kick and had the kick retaken. Replays showed that Henry and an unidentified United defender had encroached.

After the game Cooper did not talk to the media. He sat at a locker silent, staring into space with great sadness, realizing he had left his team down. Midfielder Tim Cahill did not allow the media to talk to Cooper.

Cooper's last Red Bulls' goal came in the 87th minute of a 2-0 pre-season win over the Columbus Crew in Bradenton, Fla. on Friday.

Dallas bolstered its forward line substantially on Monday as the club also acquired forward Eric Hassli from Toronto FC for a conditional second round 2014 MLS SuperDraft pick.

“Kenny and Eric are great additions for us in Dallas,” Dan Hunt, vice president of Hunt Sports Group, said in a statement on the FC Dallas website. “Kenny has long been a fan favorite here and we couldn’t be happier about welcoming him home to Dallas. Eric is an exciting player who we know our fans will enjoy watching. We have had our eyes on Eric for a while now and we are very glad to have him join FC Dallas. We think Kenny and Eric will have an immediate impact that will bring FC Dallas another step closer to our goal of winning MLS Cup and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.”
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