Seven months. A mere seven months until the entire world will put aside their differences, forget (at least we can hope) about wars, economies, and politics, and focus squarely on South Africa. For soccer aficionados worldwide, seven months is considered a lifetime. For the team managers, however, seven months more closely resembles only seven days. International friendlies have to be scheduled, tactics and strategies must be carefully put into practice, and most importantly, final 23-man rosters have to be set.
This brings us to the curious case of Kenny Cooper. And I am obliged to ask outright: could somebody please give this man a chance? After dazzling the MLS for 3 years, he left behind his family and friends in Dallas to brave the cold in Germany to improve his talents. Cooper has made an appearance for the US only ten times in his career, but still managed to tally four goals, two of which were game winners. Of those ten games, he started a paltry two. The math isn’t too difficult for this one: four goals per game. Come on, even Bob Bradley has to crack a rare smile for that kind of output. I know ten games isn’t anything to write home about, but these numbers do show promise.
At the moment, Cooper is riding the bench in Germany, pending the proper healing of his injured knee. A broken tibia silenced the former Hoop for the majority of the 2007 MLS season, but he rebounded significantly with a remarkable 2008 campaign, leading his former club with 18 goals. Cooper is hoping to have a similar experience this spring with 1860 Munich that will finally catch the attention of Bradley.
The devastating injury to striker Charlie Davies complicates matters, but it also opens many doors for fringe players, especially for Kenny. Given the late tumultuous play of Brian Ching and Conor Casey, the pecking order of available target forwards is becoming remarkably close. Although Cooper, without a doubt, lacks the speed and hustle of Davies, he still offers a collected first touch, and a powerful right-footed shot that has been known to flat-out embarrass MLS keepers from beyond 30 yards out. (That’s to you, Jon Busch).
In all probability, Bradley will elect to bring in Cooper as a substitute towards the later stages of the match to catch the tiring defense off-guard with his slightly contrasting style of play compared to the rest of the US squad. As an especially large and hulking target forward, Cooper can hold on to the ball long enough to dump it off to a Donavon, Dempsey, or Holden streaking past him towards the goal. Also, Kenny is a solid favorite to pull off a Jonathan Bornstein and head home a late goal off a set piece that would potentially alter the outcome of the game. At 6-foot-3, he could easily overpower and exploit the exhausted Algerian or Slovenian back line.
That’s just my take. Bob Bradley obviously disagrees with me. Debate on.