BY ERIC GIACOMETTI
Staff Writer, RBNY
After the 2010 season, the Red Bulls let their leading scorer (and all time goal scoring leader) walk away, sending the fans into a frenzy.
“Who’s gonna find the back of the net next year?” fans implored.
Enter the joint powers of Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers. Suddenly, the goal-scoring department seemed to be the least of New York’s problems.
Come 2012, fan-favorite and double-digit goal scorer Rodgers found himself entangled in a visa-induced dilemma and his Red Bull career was seemingly cut short. Again, the fans began the gnashing of teeth expected with such offensive production being absent from the roster the following year.
“So now what?” fans asked.
Kenny Cooper, that’s what.
The burly American proved to more than compensate for Rodgers’ offensive production as he netted 18 goals, good for second in MLS. As history seems doomed to repeat itself, Cooper found himself and his 18 goals of production shipped off before the start of 2013. The fans? They were pissed.
Are we starting to see a pattern here?
Now, if we are to subscribe to the aforementioned logic, then it appears we already have our X-Factor for 2013 in the form of Fabian Espindola.
With our moody Frenchman’s well-documented issues with Cooper, coupled with some salary cap issues, it came as little surprise that KFC found himself shipped back to Frisco. Long before that however, the Red Bulls had set their sights on two stalwarts from one of the most consistent franchises over the last five years: RSL’s Jamison Olave and Espindola.
From the get go, Fabi always had a leg up on Cooper. After all, he had perhaps the two most important figures in the organization backing his acquisition. Both Henry and Mike Petke ranted and raved about the Argentine striker. Petke lamented the days of having to mark the wily goal-scorer, while Henry hinted that his style of play would work best along side the captain in 2013. Cooper saw the writing on the wall, so by the time he finally did make his homecoming with FC Dallas, it became increasingly apparent that Espindola was his replacement.
It didn’t take long for Fabi to make his mark, either. Just 25 minutes into his New York career, he had already bagged a brace and staked the Red Bulls to a 2-0 lead. His first two New York goals embodied just why Petke hated to face off against him during his playing days. On both occasions, Fabi picked up the pieces of a sloppy backline mistake and made no mistake himself, calmly finishing the chances that came his way.
Now, I would be remiss if I failed to give Cooper his due. He was called many things during his tenure with the Red Bulls, but at his very core, the man is a finisher. However, with all due respect to KFC, Fabi brings just a little more.
Along with his tireless work rate, Espindola brings a versatility that Cooper never could. With Petke’s free flowing 4-2-3-1 formation slowly but surely taking shape, the interchangeability of Henry and Espindola will prove to be key throughout the season. Either player can start up top as the lone striker, yet both have the ability to drift out wide and help jump-start the attack. Much like Rodgers became known for his slashing runs through the 18, Espindola’s darting movement in the attacking third opens up lanes for the New York captain and puts opposing defenses back on their heels.
New year, new strike force tandem. It’s worked out to some pretty exceptional results in the past. The 2013 version of the RBNY striker formula has gotten off to a hot start, and has a promising future. Many fans had been begging the New York front office to keep their 18-goal man from 2012. But after seeing this near piece of magic ….
… I think it’s safe to say that we’re gonna be just fine.