Sunday, July 17, 2011
Bringing back Kenny Cooper: pros and cons
By Todd Date
Almost from the moment the news surfaced that Portland had put Dallas native Kenny Cooper on the trading block, the speculation began... Would FC Dallas be among the suitors for the Jesuit Prep product? Well, FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman does know the big forward well, dating all the way back to his prep days when the gaffer recruited him to play for him at SMU.
Cooper went a different direction, instead signing with Manchester United of the Premiership before coming to FCD in 2006. He played well in his first stint in MLS, so well that foreign clubs took notice and by summer 2009, he was off to Germany. The results never came for him across the pond, so this year, he returned to the States to play for the expansion Timbers. He has played well at times but it appears that he and Portland head coach John Spencer never really meshed, which is why he’s on the block. Would FCD acquire him and more importantly, what are the accompanying pros and cons. Here’s a look.
At Least on Paper, He Would Fill FCD’s Most Pressing Need
No doubt about it, as good as the Dallas side has been, they still have one pretty glaring weakness, a lack of quality up top. Bringing Cooper in would quickly put that personnel deficiency to bed. He is a big, lanky target striker who is adept at poaching but who also has a pretty potent touch, even from distance. Few FCD supporters will ever forget that bomb he launched from midfield during his stint in Frisco, a goal that was astounding to say the least. Cooper’s work ethic was simply amazing during his previous stint here and there’s nothing Hyndman likes more than a guy who’s simply willing to put the work in
He’s Still a Young Pup
This might be hard for many to believe but Cooper is still only 26. Sure, it was some two years ago that he last played for FCD but he was a youngster when he started here back in 2006 at the ripe, old age of 20. Hyndman likes the fact that he has one of the youngest rosters in MLS but he also likes experience. Kenny brings that intriguing mix of a guy who is still in the prime years of his playing career but also is someone who has already gained a good deal of experience, whether it has come from his time at Man U, his first stint in MLS and also his tenure abroad.
Change Might Do Him Good
For whatever reason, it looks like things just haven’t worked out for Kenny up in Portland. Maybe he and Spencer were never on the same page. Maybe the Timbers thought they were getting a different kind of player than what they actually saw on the field. Then again, maybe his goals and assists weren’t substantial enough, one can never tell. But like every player, Cooper is a prideful guy who will want to prove his time in Portland was nothing more than a mere aberration. If that sounds like enough motivation for the Dallas native, think about how much more hyped he’d be if he were playing again in his hometown. Kenny knows the area well and being close to family and friends would clearly put him back in a comfort zone, something that could translate into big numbers on the field.
He Doesn’t Look Like the Same Player He Was Before Heading to Europe
Now it’s pretty unfair to judge Cooper’s performance in 2011 on just a few games but plain and simple, he doesn’t look like the same player who did so many good things for FCD from 2006 through 2009. Instead of doing quality work off the ball to get open, he seems to be content to merely wait for a teammate to serve him the ball, usually courtesy of a long ball. And when the Timbers were at Pizza Hut Park, FCD limited him to just one shot in his big homecoming. It wasn’t just one Dallas player that marked him. It was a host of them. That performance didn’t sit well with Spencer, who called out Cooper and the entire team afterwards. But his coach’s quote also illustrated how little confidence he has in his forward. Maybe Spencer is onto something in putting Cooper on the block because he looks like a different and less effective player than before.
It Would Disturb What is a Strong FCD Room
Chemistry is a funny thing in sports. Schellas himself might have summed it up best earlier in the year when he said it’s something you don’t notice until it’s not there. Well, for pretty much the last year-and-a-half, strong FCD team chemistry has been there but it’s not something that has been widely talked about. Were Dallas to acquire Cooper, the big question is what would they have to give up? Even if this club were to lose several players lower on the depth chart, it would have a definite effect on the room. This team has already had to deal with reigning MLS MVP David Ferreira being out for much of the year and also with young phenom Fabian Castillo missing time to play for Colombia in the Under-20 World Cup. That adversity has galvanized this roster even further, so why mess with such strong chemistry?
His Lack of Familiarity with Current Dallas Personnel
Looking at the roster from when Cooper left Frisco in 2009 compared to the current FCD roster, there aren’t too many players on there from when he left. Ferreira was in his first year in MLS and he and Kenny did play several months together but David had some considerable growing pains as he got acclimated in MLS but other than left back Jair Benitez, who arrived in July 2009, right before Cooper left for Germany, that’s about it. Maybe it’s not a big deal but he would be coming into a team and into a system that’s completely foreign to him. Schellas was running a 4-4-2 when Kenny left and now it’s the 4-1-4-1 which is built on speed. Cooper is a lot of things but I along with countless others would not call him fast. It’s hard to say what kind of acclimation period Cooper would need before he felt comfortable here but from what FCD would have to give him to get him, they would bring him in to contribute to the attack in short order. Anything less than that would be unacceptable.
So how about it? Would you bring Cooper back? FCD has some cap room and they need a striker. What would it cost to get him? That may perhaps be the biggest question. The talent is there, or it was, and Cooper loves Dallas. Plus Hyndman know both the player and his family quite well.
So would you bring him back?