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February 6, 2013
Red Bulls were over the salary cap with veteran striker's salary

Red Bulls coach Kenny Cooper: "This unfortunately was not a soccer decision. Kenny in a way became a causality of the salary cap restrictions."
Red Bulls coach Kenny Cooper: "This unfortunately was not a soccer decision. Kenny in a way became a causality of the salary cap restrictions."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

If the Red Bulls had not dealt away veteran striker Kenny Cooper, they would have been in big, big trouble with the salary cap trying to add players.

Head coach Mike Petke revealed on Wednesday that the club was forced to trade away their leading goal-scorer from last season or face a difficult time adding players.

New York sent the 28-year-old Cooper and his $370,000 salary to FC Dallas for allocation money reportedly around $200,000. That deal gave the Major League Soccer team some much more breathing room.

Had they not, they would not have been able to sign their supplemental draft choices and perhaps a third designated player down the line.

"As far as I understand, that's very close to being exactly right," Petke said during a conference call. "Our present situation, we were over by a lot. It is not a situation that we are getting rid of a player like Kenny and what his salary is, and bringing in another player to replace him at his salary. This is a move to bring three or four players in. If we were going to bring in someone else in who is similar to Kenny, we would have never gotten rid of him. The DP, in the state we were in, you can forget about a DP. We wouldn't have any money like that, much less signing other players.

"This unfortunately was not a soccer decision. Kenny in a way became a causality of the salary cap restrictions."

When Cooper's salary and the salary cap situation came up about a month ago, Petke and the front office went through several stages of reaction, from "No way, this is going to happen," to "We have to trade Cooper" if the team could sign new players.

"The third stage was, 'Oh man, if we have to do this, is there any way to avoid it?' " Petke said. "We were entertaining the idea of what the reality was. If we kept Kenny -- we know what he brings us and it's phenomenal, but we would not be able to add any depth at all depth. . . . So it became a real reality and we had to make a decision.

Reality hit on Super Bowl Sunday.

"I did not see a second of the first half because I was on the phone over two hours with Andy [Roxburgh, the sporting director] and our financial guy," Petke said. "We made it a point that we had to make a decision. The offer that Dallas put forth was more than any other team, more than, to be honest with you, that we thought we would get. It just made sense."

Every option was explored to keep Cooper, who finished second in the league with a team-best 18 goals last season, Petke said. The Red Bulls head coach said he discussed matters with Roxburgh and the club's chief financial officer.

"While I'm not in involved in negotiations . . . I am pretty certain, without putting any words into someone's mouth, all areas, every aspect was explored, Kenny, his agent, everything, all along those lines," he said. "I'm pretty sure that was brought up at some point. Whether they didn't want to restructured it at all or whether they were willing to and it just wasn't where we needed it to be, I cannot answer that question. We explored every option to keep him. That's why it took so long. We were told a month ago, 'We need to get rid of him now.' We said, 'Whoa, not a chance.' And it got to the final hours. We explored every opportunity and option and it just wasn't going to work out."

The trade might have been business to the Red Bulls, but it was personal to Petke.

"Talking to Kenny, he understood," he said. "We kept him in the loop. It wasn't like we held it over him. We worked with him very closely as if this was to happen, what would be the ideal situation be? He was in the loop and as always the utmost professional.

"It took me a while after getting off that phone call, going back with my wife. she knew obviously something was wrong. It really affected me. to show the kind of person he is, he apologized to me about this, which tells a lot about who he is. He will have a big role there [with Dallas]. He's not in our conference, which is very key for us. If there is anything I could ever do for him, he knows my phone number here."
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