PORTLAND, OR - JUNE 19: Kenny Cooper #33 of the Portland Timbers brings the ball up the field as Jan Gunnar Solli #8 and Carlos Mendes #44 of the New York Red Bulls give chase during the second half of the game at Jeld-Wen Field on June 19, 2011 in Portland, Oregon. The game ended in a 3-3 draw. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Fox Sports has kicked off the Timbers' draft day with a bang, reporting that the Portland Timbers have traded star striker Kenny Cooper to the New York Red Bulls for a reportedly large amount of allocation money and a 2013 first round draft pick.
Timbers fans have had mixed feelings about the former US International, as he played below expectations for much of the season, especially when compared to his performance with FC Dallas. His 40 goals in 90 games with that team helped him attract the interest of the 2. Bundesliga side 1860 Munich, where he only played 13 matches, languishing in a loan deal with lower division English squad Plymouth.
Still, he led the Timbers in goals scored and shots on goal, earning him a new middle name from the Timbers faithful during his year with the club. If the report is true, KFC will be missed at Jeld-Wen Field.Assuming the report is accurate (UPDATE: confirmed), the transfer leaves a big question mark in the starting XI. Cooper is the only Timber to have played in all 34 matches in 2011, starting in 29 of them. Whatever your opinion of the "Texas Tornado," as he was briefly known in Munich, he nearly always filled a spot on the lineup card.
The transfer reduces the Timbers to six strikers, including two who are unlikely to see much time on the first team in 2012. The Timbers' strategy for draft day, whatever that may be, is almost certainly unchanged in the wake of the transfer, as the team's greatest needs still reside in the midfield and defense.
Assuming no further trades will change the Timbers' striker pool (which, by the way, is not an assumption I'm at all confident in), the starting strikers on 3/12 would appear to be some combination of Jorge Perlaza, Eddie Johnson and Darlington Nagbe, all rare pairings in 2011. The transfer does create room for Bright Dike, however, a player who had been seen as the biggest loser in the signings of Jose Adolfo Valencia and Brent Richards. Dike's size and physicality will now be unique on the squad with Cooper gone, and I believe his contribution will increase in 2012.
My best guess at this point would be a Perlaza-Nagbe pairing up front, providing a combination of Nagbe's vision and passing ability with Perlaza's physicality and speed. But an all-Colombian striker force is not outside the realm of possibility either, especially later in the season.