Over the next few weeks, Goal.com will provide an all-access look into the New York Red Bulls as they begin their journey for their first title in 17 years.Kenny Cooper is a thinking man.
Just examine his late goal against FC Dallas in the New York Red Bulls' 2-1 season-opening loss. Receiving a long ball on the upper tip of his cleat, Cooper steered the ball into the back of net with a deft chip finish.
And despite not starting the match against the team that essentially launched his career, his response to the media was equally as calculated when asked if head coach Hans Backe's decision upset him.
"I just want to get out there and play," Cooper said after several silent seconds of thought.
The one thing that Cooper doesn't have to give much thought to is his desire to reclaim the form that led to him to being arguably the top striker in Major League Soccer in 2008. Cooper finished second to Landon Donovan in the MLS Golden Boot race that season, scoring 18 goals.
"That year, I have to give my teammates all the credit for the goals I scored because I received some amazing service. My teammates were fantastic," he recalled to Goal.com.
The towering 6-foot-4 striker believes that after struggling with his finishing for the past three years during stops at 1860 Munich, Plymouth Argyle and Portland Timbers, he might have finally found the right fit with New York.
"When I think of this team, I think of the quality on and off the ball. There's a lot of fantastic talent and vision. If you get open, they will find you." Cooper said.
Many were surprised that Cooper didn't have an immediate impact last year when he returned to MLS with the Timbers. The only thing that was consistent about the Maryland native's form was his long stretches without a goal. Cooper finished the 2011 season with eight goals.
When New York acquired Cooper, team general manager Erick Soler stated that due to Cooper's height, he was misused in a target man role. Instead of expecting Cooper to convert headed opportunities, Soler insists that the 27-year-old will be much more effective in taking advantage of his first touch as opposed to his aerial ability. Cooper agrees.
A former Manchester United youth academy product, Cooper has praised the setup of the Red Bulls which features a European style of play. While it hasn't translated on the field yet as the team dropped three points on Sunday, Cooper thinks the results will show soon enough.
When Cooper reflects on his time at Portland, it's clear that a part of him wishes he could lived up to the big expectations on him placed early on.
"I had a great experience in Portland and had a lot of great memories. It was a great experience," said Cooper.
With those memories in rear view, Cooper insists that he hopes to recreate the bond that he had with Timbers fans in New York.
"It's nice to be close to one of my favorite cities," said Cooper. " I'm definitely looking forward to experiencing a home game here and seeing the fan groups."