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Cooper, Pros and Cons

Before we get started, you should know that veteran midfielder DaMarcus Beasley has been added to the U.S. roster for Wednesday's qualifier at Guatemala.

Before yesterday's initial roster announcement, we had a pretty good idea who would be summoned: Howard, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Donovan, Dempsey, etc etc. The big question was whether Coach Bob Bradley would include FC Dallas forward Kenny Cooper. When the list was unveiled, Cooper's name was conspiculously absent.

Many Insider loyalists could not understand why a 6-foot-3 forward with ball skills and a scoring touch continues to be overlooked. While I am not going to take sides, I would like to initiate reasonable discussion on the subject by offering the case for and against Cooper's inclusion for the Guatemala game.


*With 13 goals in 19 league games, including consecutive two-goal performances, he is on a tear in MLS and should be utilized immediately.

*The U.S. team could use a second target forward on the roster to challenge Brian Ching for the starting job or provide an imposing option off the bench.

*If you toss out the 8-0 rout of Barbados, U.S. forwards have accounted for only two goals in seven games.

*His time has come -- get him in there!


*The timing is bad. Cooper has not spent an extended period in a USA training camp since January 2007 and, with only two full practices available before the Guatemala game, the opportunity to learn the system and acclimate to teammates for what promises to be an intense international match is extremely limited.

*It might make more sense to call him up in a couple weeks when the U.S. team will be together for about 10 days for the Cuba and T&T matches in Havana and Chicago, respectively.

*Cooper has not played in an international match in 17 months, and while you can blame Bradley for not providing the opportunity during that span, the bottom line is that Cooper is unproven outside of MLS. (Some examples of league excellence not translating into international success are Jason Kreis and Taylor Twellman.)

*Because the game at Guatemala will be the most difficult of the six semifinal-round encounters, Bradley needs an experienced squad accustomed to playing in hostile environments against determined opponents.

Okay, I'm sure there are other issues you would like to raise, but this is a start.

I encourage you to express your opinion here.

By Steve Goff  |  August 15, 2008; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  MLS , U.S. men's national team  
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the bottom line is that Cooper is unproven outside of MLS. (Some examples of league excellence not translating into international success are Jason Kreis and Taylor Twellman.)

And EJ is? ;^)
Again, EJ scored a hat trick four years ago and not much since. Not directed towards you Goff, but if this is BB's reasoning.........

Posted by: donkeyrichard | August 15, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse


1 - To be brutally frank, a draw in the road match would probably be enough to set us up well for the rest of this round.

2 - To also be brutally frank, that's not exactly a tough task against Guatemala, and a win is far from out of the question with the roster we did bring. And if we fail to get 1 point, it probably won't be the forwards fault.

3 - Cooper has earned a look, and Bradley's a damn fool if he doesn't see that. But, given points 1 and 2, and given more practice time before future games it isn't the end of the world (though it isn't what I would have done) not to bring him in for the Guatemala game.

So I guess I'm saying it's a mistake, but it won't be one that makes or breaks our team in the long run, so the coach should get at least a LITTLE leash.

Posted by: S | August 15, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I can imagine not calling in Cooper if there were ample other options. But apparently Altidore needs to rest and/or train with his club. Who else is there? I guess EJ knows the "system." But to what end? I would have left EJ stateside (or in England) and brought along Cooper.

Posted by: Chris | August 15, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Pro's > Cons

No doubt Cooper inexperienced with the big boy team going into a critical game. However, at some point he has to get that experience.

Posted by: JkR | August 15, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

2 - To also be brutally frank, that's not exactly a tough task against Guatemala, and a win is far from out of the question with the roster we did bring. And if we fail to get 1 point, it probably won't be the forwards fault.


fyi, the u.s. has never won a qualifier in guatemala.

Posted by: fig | August 15, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Look, I am not a big Eddie Johnson fan, but here is a stat of note: 8 World Cup Qualifying Appearances--8 Goals.

Maybe EJ doesn't step it up on Wednesday and maybe he does, but the numbers are hard to ignore. by the way, Donovan has eight goals in 21 WC Qualifying appearences.

I am a huge Kenny Cooper fan and think Bradley is a fool to not include him and oh yeah, Edson Buddle. With short prep time this time around, I can see it, but I am not going to excuse it for the next round in a couple of weeks.

Posted by: Matt Johnston | August 15, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

this is extremely harsh on edson buddle too, as he's close to the top of the golden boot like donovan and cooper

fault lies on bradley. even nations like england call up people like nickey shorey, dean ashton, and other former unknowns when their form for club team warrants it. in this case BB is irresponsbily sticking with a relatively lackluster bunch, who is pretty much only capable of taking on weak opponents like guatemala. the younger cadre from the u20 world cup is a far more promising bunch that needs to be incorporated into the team asap

Posted by: jahs | August 15, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Isn't there an age-old saying that says "players play", which means, despite not knowing the system, despite not much experience on the National Team, despite every other variable you can throw out there, Cooper still deserves a look with that massive amount of talent that he presently is holding.

His talent is undeniable. We would be very intelligent to waste it.

If Bradley gives Johnson and Cooper the same number of caps, same amount of playing time, same variables, who has the better numbers? Who meshes better with their teammates? Who has more potential?

Cooper. Physically imposing, stout, agile, intelligent and technically skilled on the ball.

HE'S GOT IT. Bradley needs to utilize him!

Posted by: Mo | August 15, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Goff wrote:
"The timing is bad. Cooper has not spent an extended period in a USA training camp since January 2007 . . ."


"Cooper has not played in an international match in 17 months, and while you can blame Bradley for not providing the opportunity during that span . . ."

Well, that's the issue, isn't it? Of course there's no way to replicate a trip to Central America, but a couple of those European friendlies wouldn't have hurt, would they? I mean, did Josh Wolff on the roster for Poland, England and Spain really advance the national team program?

Posted by: Ben | August 15, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

One of Bruce Arena's biggest successes as US manager was the development of Brian McBride into an excellent CONCACAF forward. He played him every game for an extended period. It was a risk, but it paid off.

The US has not clear developed forward at this point in the World Cup qualifying cycle. Of the current US forwards, and I don't include Donovan and Dempsey in this category as they are really attacking midfielders, Cooper has shown to be a consistent and at times explosive MLS goal scorer. Others with similar pedigrees--Twellman, Ching for example--have not proven themselves over an extended period at the international level. Cooper should be given an extended run. He may turn out to be another Twellman, but he has great potential to be a target forward for the next World Cup cycle or two and is worth the effort. Bradley has taken this step with his son, it is to Bradley's discredit that he has not done so with Cooper.

(Altidore probably has greater potential, but his impact will come later and he needs to get settled in Spain.)

Add Cooper.

Posted by: Bill | August 15, 2008 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Cooper will be another Twellman or Kreis; however we will never know if BB doesn't play him in any games. IMHO that is the big "pro", try him and see if he has the talent on the world stage, he clearly has it in MLS.

Posted by: griffin1108 | August 15, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I know you're trying to make the argument more reasonable and balanced, but Eddie Johnson is on the team and Cooper is not... that's ridiculous! My patience with EJ was gone a long time ago. What happened to the Bradley that gave so many guys a chance a while back? I hope he isn't dead set on these fringe players. It's almost as if EJ's mediocrity is being rewarded. That's unacceptable with the young talent coming up.

Finally, I don't care about Johnson's 8 goals in 8 WCQ's. He's been garbage ever since his hat trick against (at the time a lousy) Panama.

Posted by: Paul | August 15, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

No comparison Cooper with Twellman or Ching. He plays much better than those two.
It's Bob Bradley, inconfident coach, indecisive coah, unintelligent coach, who doesn't see a thing in players ability and ruined the good players.
I hope they lose down there bad for the sack of MR BB's realization and he can feel some heat.

Posted by: td | August 15, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Cooper may be a Twellman or Kreis. He may also be a Mastroeni, Wolff, Mathis, type that ultimately gets his chance due to injuries.

The US team has a history of doing this.

Posted by: Deron | August 15, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

All of the Cons have to do with "timing" issues and in sum are not very compelling. Call up Cooper. Now.

Posted by: Ron | August 15, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Well, that's the issue, isn't it? Of course there's no way to replicate a trip to Central America, but a couple of those European friendlies wouldn't have hurt, would they? I mean, did Josh Wolff on the roster for Poland, England and Spain really advance the national team program?

Posted by: Ben | August 15, 2008 4:46 PM

I think that is what leaves most fans so disappointed with the USMNT. I mean aren't friendlies played to help develop, test, and integrate new players on to the team???

Posted by: Randomher0723 | August 15, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm staying out of this until Chest Rockwell chimes in. Then I'll agree with him.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | August 15, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Reasonable discussion? This is the internet! Bradley's a c***!

Seriously, though, the only part of the con argument that works for me at all is the timing issue. If Bradley is just waiting until the US has a longer camp to bring Cooper in, then, fine, I guess we can wait one game. But the other arguments, which are basically variants of the same "experience" argument, don't hold any water for me: why is experience so much more valuable than actually being good at soccer? True, Eddie Johnson has been tested at the international level; he's been tested and has failed (who cares about three goals against Panama - Mark Whiten hit four home runs in one game - that doesn't make him a good ballplayer). And for every MLS player who hasn't excelled at the international level, there are three who have (Donovan, Mastreoni, Conrad, Guzan, etc.). Almost everyone who plays for the national team initially got called up based on their performance in MLS.

Posted by: Jeff M | August 15, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

give EJ a break...

he hasn't produced in a while but it's not entirely his fault- as w/ McBride in teh Oly's, he hasn't had much service as of late. i think the last game he played he showed well for the ball, made decent runs, held he ball well & had no support around him (hance teh oft-mentioned back-passes). Once we get a midfielder who can dictate the game and spray balls liek freddy sometimes does, then we'll know which forwards can seal the deal. EJ was at his best when we were whipping in crosses from the wings. hopefully cherundolo & our wingers can do that.

as for frankencooper...

bradley simply f$*ked that up! did his club hold him back? it simply makes no sense that Ching is there in lieu of Coop!

i'm more worried about our midfield. defensive we are & without a central playmaker.

Posted by: sh$t4brains | August 15, 2008 6:11 PM | Report abuse

cooper should get a look but that still might mean he will sit on the bench. which is what ching mostly does

adu needs to play as well.

and i would like to see more of wynne and less of bocanegra

Posted by: castroviejo | August 15, 2008 6:11 PM | Report abuse

In my opinion, this is just another symptom of the bigger problem. Bradley's judgment and acumen as a tactician are too mediocre to achieve the lofty goals and/or maximize the talent in our program.

I humbly submit that I think he's a good coach, just not good enough. Ignoring Cooper and other young and up and comers seem to be further evidence of this.

Posted by: Stephen Boudreau | August 15, 2008 6:30 PM | Report abuse

fyi, the u.s. has never won a qualifier in guatemala.

Posted by: fig | August 15, 2008 4:37 PM

We have only played them 3 times there since 1990, and we drew the away leg and won the home leg all 3 times.

Posted by: S | August 15, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

(Btw, that's since the qualies for WC90, not technically "since 1990.")

And we're 4-for-4 if you count the time they played their home leg in El Salvador.

Posted by: S | August 15, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Cooper is more of a threat than Ching. Faster, better ball control, good striking foot, and in the air they are about the same.

Posted by: JAV | August 15, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Cooper hasnt played internationlly in the past 17 months, but he is a much better player than, what he was 17 months ago. Like day and night.

Posted by: JAV | August 15, 2008 7:01 PM | Report abuse

cooper is a quality player.
bradley is a sub-quality coach.
this is pretty much the exact same set of call-ups that we have had since he came in, barring the inclusion of kljestan. if he never tries other people (wynne, SIMMS, beckerman, holden, etc.) how will we ever find out who to complain about in future internet discussions?
in my opinion I feel there is something to be said for taking stock of present form and not using 'conventional wisdom' regarding players that are picked and players that are passed by.
EJ may score goals against CONCACAF nations but he is in pre-season form and Cooper has been in terrific form this season.

Posted by: uniter | August 15, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

I see Michael Bradley on roster lists all the time. He may play in Europe, but hasnt done diddly squat on the National team. They give Holden a try, he has play pretty well everytime he has been call to the U23.

Posted by: JAV | August 15, 2008 7:14 PM | Report abuse

I think it is clear that Cooper needs to be worked into the national team picture. His not having enough time practicing with the team is a reasonable reason not to play him in Guatemala, but why wouldn't Bradley at least put him on the roster? Unless Bradley plans on using all four forwards in the game (which is possible given that Donovan and Dempsey can play in midfield), he would've been better off selecting Cooper and letting him practice and travel with the team so that he'd be a better option in the next game.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

If Cooper doesn't have the experience, that is on Bob Bradley. In January, he failed to even invite a current strong MVP candidate to the January camp. He could have invited him for the England/Spain/Argentina friendlies or the Barbados qualifier. Didn't happen then, either. What was the excuse for that group of games, again? Inexperience, I think. Ridiculous.

The truth is, I don't know for sure if Cooper is the goal-scoring answer. But I know that EJ is not. And I know that that strikers rarely score their first World Cup goal at the age of 32. And I do know that if Cooper is the league MVP or Golden Boot winner, and the USMNT is still not getting goal production from its guys upfront, it's going to be a major black eye for Bradley.

Maybe Cooper isn't the answer. Maybe he's just a bigger, younger Twellman. But it's dereliction of coaching duty not to find out.

Posted by: KB | August 15, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes you need to put yourself in your opponents' shoes. I bet if you ask the Guatemalans who they do NOT want to see lining up for the US - Johnson, Ching or Cooper - they'd say Cooper.

Posted by: JDO | August 15, 2008 9:01 PM | Report abuse

The inexperience argument for Cooper drives me crazy because his lack of experience is down to Bradley not picking him when we had friendlies. There is certainly the possibility of Cooper being a Twellman but at least with a Twellman type you get a guy who will throw himself at the ball in the box and lately Johnson has done enough of that.

The system argument doesn't hold much weight either because he's a striker not a midfielder or a defender. It's not exactly rocket science up front for the US, hold the ball up, lay it off for Landy then head for the box.

My biggest problem with the Cooper issue is that it reminds me too much of the England team. They only call up the same players over and over because those players have the experience which in turn prevents others from gaining experience. It also makes the team very predictable because they play the same way every game with the exact same players. At this point we need to be looking ahead 2 years and slowly ridding ourselves of any player that is 32 or older.

Posted by: Jared | August 15, 2008 9:07 PM | Report abuse


Little did you know that I was going to clamor for the inclusion of Chad Barrett instead.


In all seriousness, I think Cooper is clearly ready. Sure, the timing isn't ideal, but when will it be? Cooper and Ching are basically playing for the same position as the target forward. Ching is rounding into form with Houston, it must be said, but Cooper is on fire and has been all year (and with a much worse team setting him up, no less). I know Ching and Donovan have this mythical aura surrounding them because they played together for a season years ago, but good players play well with other good players. Cooper is a good player, and he and Donovan should compliment each other.

As for the Kreis/Twellman argument, I see more to Cooper's game than either Kreis or Twellman ever displayed. Kreis was a never-say-die poacher with a cannon of a shot, but he didn't bring much else. He was smallish, of average speed, and was not particularly gifted with his dribbling or passing. Twellman is similar, but is more elusive and has a less powerful shot. Both are/were fearless, hard workers, but that's it. At the international level, that was never going to cut it. I was never once shocked that both players failed to make the grade.

Cooper has more technical ability, more size, and (from what I can tell) more ambition. Has it struck anyone that, in a year where so much is on the line in terms of his career, Cooper has stepped up his game? That's the kind of attitude our players need, and that probably was ingrained in him training at Man. United and being around people like Keane and Giggs (side note: I am no Man. United fan, but you can't argue with consistent results). I'm not saying Kreis and Twellman are lazy, but I don't see the same determination to improve in either.

Dempsey should be playing right midfield, which leaves us with Ching, Johnson, and Donovan as the listed forwards. Donovan will start, and if it's up top, he'll be playing off a target. Johnson is in preseason and hasn't played a good game for club or country since he played for the Kansas City Wizards. Ching and Cooper are both in MLS, and Cooper's in better form.

I don't see how this is even debatable. Cooper should be in the squad and probably in line for a starting role. Unless Bradley knows something we don't know (perhaps Cooper inexplicably and violently hates Guatemalans and would be a red card danger?), this decision is beyond my comprehension.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | August 15, 2008 9:14 PM | Report abuse

At first, I thought that Bradley would do a very good job as the US coach. However with this selection, he has really lost me.

EJ is not in form and has been relegated to the bench or even the reserves by Fullham.

Cooper is on fire. He is better than Ching. He is better than EJ. He is a finisher, unlike EJ who is the artist of the back pass. Cooper and even Buddle should have been called in to the MNT side.

If they needed more experience they should have been included the friendlies instead of has beens like Wolf.

In addition Sasha gives the ball away way too much to be a midfielder on the national team. If I am not mistaken the play that lead to the free kick that tied the game for the Dutch was initiated by a foolish give away in the midfield by Sasha.

Posted by: Sblue | August 15, 2008 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Took the question to Buzz Carrick of 3rd Degree, who, I assume, has seen Coop in action much more than most of us. Here is what he had to say:

"In general terms Cooper doesn’t seem to be the kind of player that Bradley is looking for. Bradley also has his team for the most part set ofr this first round of Quals.
The Nats are built a certain way and Bradley’s asking for his strikers to play a certain way. Cooper tends to be a bit of a loose cannon in tactical terms, frenetic with lots of chaos and energy. I think he also doesn’t quite value possession enough for Bradley.
But I have to think if Cooper keeps scoring he’ll eventually get called."

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2008 11:37 PM | Report abuse

You say Cooper needs experience, yet as you also say Bradley hasn't called-in Cooper for national team friendlies in quite a while. You get experience by playing--it's Bradleys' fault that Cooper doesn't have the experience. Or, is there some other bias that Bradley has against Cooper? I wonder what that is? I also wonder why he keeps calling in EJ, when he hasn't scored a goal in a long time. Next thing, Bradley will be calling in Barrett before he calls in Cooper!!!

Posted by: Leo | August 16, 2008 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Either Cooper or Buddle should have gotten the call. It's just mind boggling that Eddie Lewis gets a call up and neither of the aforementioned does, even hejduk gets a caall. Bradley has lost me; seriously Bob what about going with some youth. The U-23's impressed even though they did not move on from their group of death and kudos for calling up Sasha and Edu. Hejduk nor Lewis will be on the roster if the US does make the WC in 2010, but if they are there in S Africa forget any chance of moving out of any group. C'mon are you kidding me Bob talk about a homer with no sense of what's working at the moment. Buddle and Donovan are tearing up the MLS as is Coop. Bob "Vanilla" Bradley, why not call up McBride better than EJ at the moment and God knows he's well acclimated with the team even 2 years removed.... F U BOB

Posted by: glove | August 17, 2008 12:23 AM | Report abuse

I mean, Bob Bradley played Wolff over Cooper. Against England no less. No excuse.

Posted by: KB | August 17, 2008 5:53 AM | Report abuse

One of Bruce Arena's biggest successes as US manager was the development of Brian McBride into an excellent CONCACAF forward.

Posted by: Bill | August 15, 2008 4:52 PM

No offense, but comments like these are so stupid as to insult the stupid. I know you guys here in DC can't help but give Bruce Arena credit for everything from Michael Phelps' 8 golds to curing cancer to helping to end the genocide in Darfur.

But THIS is rich: You're claiming that Bruce Arena was able to "develop" Brian McBride? Sorry, but even the Miracle Worker himself can't "develop" players in the context of national team training camps. There SIMPLY isn't enough time for ANY coach to "develop" players within a national team setup.

Now, get off your knees, and have a tissue.

Bruce Arena had NOTHING to do with McBride, nor Beasley, nor Donovan's, nor ANY OTHER national team players' development. They ALL learned the game within their clubs, not with the national team. Get over your Arena Man-crush.

Posted by: you are dumb, sir. | August 18, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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