By AVI CREDITOR
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The New York Red Bulls turned some heads by trading a 2013 first-round pick and allocation money to the Portland Timbers for veteran striker Kenny Cooper, a move intriguing for a number of reasons, none more than the fact that New York already has a full stable of first-team strikers in Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers and Juan Agudelo.
Despite the transaction fueling speculation that Agudelo may be hitting the transfer market, Red Bulls sporting director Erik Soler offered a staunch denial that the club was shopping the 19-year-old forward.
"No we're not," Soler told reporters at the MLS SuperDraft. "There's been interest in Juan ever since I came here. There's a lot of clubs that want him, and at some stage he'll probably go abroad, but I think the time isn't there yet."
Instead, Soler gave simple reasoning for making the move: Agudelo will be busy with international duties this year, Rodgers' U.S. work visa has not yet been renewed and the club did not want to be left short-handed at the position.
"We have a situation where we have Juan Agudelo where he will play for the Olympic team, he's going to be playing qualifiers, he's going to be away with the (senior) national team the way it looks, so he's going to be away for a long time," Soler said. "We simply need to ensure that we don't get into a situation where we have injuries and have no one to put up top."
Rodgers' situation should work itself out, Soler said, but the club does not know for sure yet whether his visa will be renewed, and until it does, it cannot take his place in the lineup for granted. He expects to have a resolution within the next three weeks.
"We have to be open to the fact that Luke Rodgers had a one-year visa and that visa isn't renewed at this very moment," Soler said. "We think it will be, but it's not for sure.
"We think there's a good chance, but he had the (criminal) record before he came. He's been absolutely fantastic when he's been here. There's no reason we think not to have the visa, but still it's not on our table and we don't want to take any risk."
Soler added that he is confident in Cooper being able to contribute in New York, despite his inconsistent play for Portland last season. Cooper is a player that has long been on Soler's radar, and years after initially chasing him, the former U.S. national team striker is now on his roster.
"Kenny Cooper is a player that I tried to move out of the U.S. five years ago to Rosenborg in Norway when he went to 1860 Munich," Soler said. "He's a good player that will suit us. He's big. He's not really a target man, but he's good with his feet, he can move around and he can score goals."
The Cooper acquisition was the second of the day for the Red Bulls, who officially announced the addition of Swedish centerback Markus Holgersson as well. While Holgersson should provide cover if Tim Ream's proposed move to Bolton goes through, he might not be the only answer at the position. Soler said another contingency plan is in place if Ream bolts to England.
"We should have an announcement on that coming up should Tim leave," Soler said.