Thursday, January 12, 2012

Red Bulls Get Active, Adding Cooper, Holgersson, Meara

Kenny Cooper: Jersey-Bound
On what most people expected to be a relatively quiet 2012 MLS Draft day for the New York Red Bulls, Erik Solér and company made a surprising amount of noise. First, even before the draft began, the team confirmed the signing of defender Markus Holgersson from Swedish club Helsingborgs IF. (You can see him talk about the deal in Swedish here.) Then, in what was probably the biggest shock of the day, they acquired striker Kenny Cooper from Portland Timbers in exchange for a first round pick in the 2013 MLS Draft and a sizable amount of allocation money, reportedly contingent on Cooper remaining with RBNY beyond 2012.

Why would the Red Bulls be interested in a big, relatively expensive forward who struggled at times with Portland in 2011, scoring just eight goals? Quite simply, they need a big body up front who can cause havoc in the penalty area and pose a threat on aerial balls and set pieces. Between Holgersson and Cooper, the Red Bulls should be much less easy to defend, with some size and physicality now available to complement to speed and trickiness of players like Dane Richards, Luke Rodgers and Thierry Henry. They must also hoping that Cooper can re-ignite a scoring spark he hasn't had since leaving FC Dallas for Europe. If Cooper doesn't pan out, the ability to dump out of the allocation prior to 2013 is a smart move by the Red Bulls front office.

Finally, with their lone SuperDraft selection, the Red Bulls went with an area of burning need and shopped locally, selecting Ryan Meara of Fordham - the consensus best keeper in a weak goalkeeper class. Check out some brief Meara highlights here. Hopefully the youngster can grow into the franchise's next great netminder and get some valuable mentoring from Frank Rost, should the German return of course.

Back to the addition of Cooper, by far the most controversial move of the three. It does bring up the issue of depth at forward. But with Thierry Henry unlikely to play every game, Luke Rodgers hampered recently by foot problems, and Juan Agudelo gone for part of the season with the USMNT U23 Olympic squad, it was absolutely vital that the Red Bulls add some forward depth. The Dane Richards as striker experiment didn't exactly come off with flying colors last season, while Corey Hertzog is still raw and unproven. Since the Cooper deal went down, there have even been rumors of a sale of Agudelo to a foreign club, perhaps Stuttgart, with whom he trained in December. If that were to come to pass, and the interminable saga of the Tim Ream transfer to England were ever consummated, the Red Bulls could well be sitting on top of a massive pile of transfer cash, even if they have to send some of it to Portland.

All in all, it was an excellent day's work for a club that wasn't really expected to make waves in Kansas City. There should be a lot more to come over the next week, so stay tuned.

One additional wrinkle on Draft Day (and it wouldn't be RBNY if something didn't happen to piss in everyone's Cheerios): Luke Rodgers has allowed his visa to lapse, meaning that he may not be back in New York for another several weeks. Oy!

Finally, if you like reading about tax disputes, the Observer reports that the Red Bulls owe the Town of Harrison millions of dollars for Red Bull Arena. Can you feel the love from the local community? I can't. And the chances of ticket prices going down next season? Slim.
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