Red Bulls coach Mike Petke joined Seeing Red! this week to discuss, amongst other topics, the trade of Cooper. When confronted with the situation, the new team boss let out a telling sigh before detailing the difficulties of his decision.
“It’s tough for me to talk about because it is the most difficult decision obviously I have made in the last week,” he admitted, “but from a soccer stand point, the most difficult decision ever.”
As the organization has said since they shipped Cooper off for allocation money to FC Dallas, Petke stressed the cumbersome cap hit his star striker commanded as the central motivating factor for the move. Red Bull financial managers made that clear to Petke, saying “If you want to build a team, this is the only way to do it. If you keep someone like Kenny at his salary, you can forget about adding anybody else, including, and most importantly, a third DP.”
This explains why Cooper’s name has been ever present in trade talks.
To the organization’s credit, Cooper was kept in the loop during the entire process. The Red Bulls even worked with him to find a suitable home. When the time finally came to move on, the 6’3″ 200lb striker didn’t put up a gripe or complaint. Instead, he displayed the type of amiability that has made him such a beloved character in the Red Bulls locker room.
“He actually apologized to me when I called him up after the trade,” Petke recounted. “He said ‘I’m sorry you had to go through this your first week’ and I tell ya … I had to bite my lip because when he said that to me, I was the one that had to apologize to him.
“I told him ‘if every decision I have to make here moving forward is half as smooth and half as professional as you handled it, I am going to have a non-stressful career.”
For Petke, moving Cooper was a decision that was thrust upon him. “(Sporting Director) Andy Roxburgh and I put it off. Not put it off, but said nope, nope, nope we can’t trade Kenny! He is a huge part of this team! Not only is he a huge part of this team on the field, but he is the most phenomenal professional I have ever been a part of!
“It got to a point,” he continued, “it kept building up and we tried to figure out every single way to keep him, and it got to the point where we had to make a decision before we got too close to the season in order to add depth to this team.”
Labeling the team’s salary cap as a “shambles,” the new coach made clear; this wasn’t a decision to bring in someone to replace Cooper, but one to add reinforcements.
“If it was a player for player, if it was getting rid of Kenny to bring somebody else in, we would have held on to Kenny,” he said. “If we kept Kenny, the roster you see now is the roster we would have for the whole year.
“This isn’t even a soccer decision,” he added. “It had everything to do with the business of soccer.”