A report out of OregonLive.com yesterday evening suggests that one of the Portland Timbers' most prominent players (and most expensive) could find himself on the bench. Kenny Cooper, despite coming into the league and team with high expectations has had a lackluster season so far scoring only three goals and not making much of an impression in the final third. In fact, he's been pretty disappointing all year around.
According to Geoffrey C. Arnold, during yesterday's training it was Eddie Johnson who was training beside Jorge Perlaza not Kenny Cooper which leads him to believe that we could see the English forward starting in tomorrow's game. It's an interesting proposition that I believe could be the right move for the club at this time.
Let's take a look at the team as it is now:
Kenny Cooper is, on paper, the best striker available. We know he has the skills to compete in MLS. He did it in 2008 and, as much as the league continues to get better, it hasn't improved so radically so as to outpace Kenny Cooper's abilities. Which means there's something else wrong with Cooper. Perhaps it's mental, maybe he can't gel. Maybe he's gotten complacent in his position. I don't really know. Something is wrong though.So why not move him out of his starting position? Give the starting role to somebody who has yet to really prove himself. Despte not having a single goal to his name in the regular season as of yet, Eddie Johnson seems as good a choice as any available at the moment, with Bright Dike still out and Brian Umony a loaner. He could be what the team is missing. We don't really know because he hasn't really been given a shot. In all he's played a total of 68 minutes in the regular season, making a scant four appearances almost always at the tail end of a match.
Despite some nagging achilles problems, Eddie Johnson says he's ready to take the starting position as well:
"I'm definitely ready (to start). I think I've worked hard the last month. He hasn't named the team that's going to start. So we'll wait and see."
Better than just seeing how Eddie Johnson would perform if given the full 90 is the simple fact that each player needs that competition for their starting position. Without it, why should they bother giving 100% during training? Why should they come early and stay late? Why should they fight for a position they know is safe?
So, yes, despite technically being our best striker (on paper) I firmly believe that sitting Kenny Cooper out of tomorrow's match could be one of the best things to happen to the club. Give him a reason to prove why he deserves that spot. Scoring 18 goals in 2008 won't cut it anymore. Score 10 goals this season and we'll talk.