The Economics of Kenny Cooper

Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE

Kenny Cooper doesn't get the respect he deserves. But is that respect worth half a million dollars?

In September, Kenny Cooper scored two goals in a 4-1 thrashing of Toronto FC.

It was one of those games where the box score told one story, and the actual game told another. Without seeing a minute of the game, Cooper put together a nice game. He, along with strike partner Thierry Henry and Markus Holgersson, lead a comeback after going down 1-0. Cooper netted two and the Red Bulls come away with three points on their way to the playoffs.

The game itself was a different story. Henry put in one of his most dominant MLS performances yet. The Reds clamped down on the Red Bulls' superstar, which created space for Cooper. Henry, draped in two or three defenders showed his superior vision and skill, finding Cooper wide open for two tap-ins.

If you only saw that game and heard the way people are talking about Cooper in the wake of trade talks and recent acquisitions, you'd imagine that's how every game was: The greatest-of-his-generation nominee Henry attracting defenders like a magnet, opening space for his strike partner, Cooper, a Manchester United castoff and likely MLS lifer.

Just like the "castoff" dig isn't much in the way of a dig -- not every player signed by Manchester United gets to star at Old Trafford -- Cooper didn't benefit nearly as much from Henry as people seem to think. More than anything else, the Red Bulls probably benefited from Cooper's finishing ability. Of Cooper's 18 goals -- good enough for second in the league -- 10 of his goals did not involve Henry directly in anyway.

For instance:

His other eight involved Henry in some way, either via a penalty Henry had a hand in drawing or directly off Henry's foot. Though, for a guy who lead the team with 12 assists, it's not surprising Henry created as much for Cooper as he did.

Detractors still say Henry drew the heat so Cooper cound score. But if Cooper can't score without Henry, how did Cooper manage to net 48 goals in five years without the Frenchman at his side? And how come Sebastien Le Toux only scored one goal in the 878 minutes he spent on the field for the Red Bulls?

Plain and simple, Cooper is a finisher. He's not the fastest, he doesn't use his 6'4" frame to his advantage as much as he should, and he doesn't create. The man puts the ball in the back of the net, and he's one of the league's best in that category.

Keeping him, then, is an economic issue. Even with the allocation money acquired for Le Toux that could bring Cooper's salary down to a more manageable level, that's still a lot of money for any player, and that's the rub: Is Cooper's finishing ability worth, reportedly, $500,000 (less some allocation money)?

If it is, you keep him, and find a way to work Fabian Espindola into the line-up somehow. Or use him as trade bait.

If it's not, Cooper will almost certainly fetch something useful on the trade market. It just comes down to what the Andy Roxburgh/Gerard Houllier brain trust want.

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