Sheffield Wednesday striker Gary Hooper is reportedly attracting interest from two MLS clubs, D.C. United and the Vancouver Whitecaps. The 31-year-old is a proven but hamstrung goalscorer.
Johnny Russell was predominantly a second-tier footballer in England prior to his move to Sporting Kansas City last offseason.
The winger was most famous for his mazy displays for Derby in the Championship. He was one of the better wide attackers in the division, but he was never considered as a Premier League quality player.
But such is the disparity in competition between Major League Soccer and English football, Russell, from the Championship, was able to dominate in his first season in America, totalling double figures in both goals and assists.
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Russell’s success has proven to other MLS clubs that Championship players can be acquired as key members and relied upon to produce consistently. And that means that in a league in which any team will copy another that is successful, other Championship players could now be targets for MLS teams. And given Russell’s success, why the hell not?
That leads me to the recent report that two MLS teams, D.C. United and the Vancouver Whitecaps, are interested in signing Sheffield Wednesday centre-forward, Gary Hooper. Hooper may not be a household name to many MLS fans. But then I bet that Russell wasn’t either just a year ago.
The English striker is a proven goalscorer throughout his career. Known primarily for his time at Celtic and Norwich City earlier in his career, Hooper has scored prolifically wherever he has been, including most recently at Wednesday, although injuries have curtailed his impact.
And that is the crux of the Hooper issue. He is a very talented goalscorer at the Championship, and likely the MLS, level. But it comes with a rather extensive injury history, one that has culminated in a year on the sidelines with a strange groin injury that Wednesday initially claimed was not that damaging — as an aside, there is great controversy surrounding the Wednesday fitness staff and their dealings with injured players. Hooper’s recovery, therefore, is far from guaranteed and trustworthy.
But Hooper is available for an MLS club to sign primarily because of his injury. He was a regular for Wednesday prior to this year on the sidelines. Had he been playing for the past year, he would not be looking towards a move across the pond. So, is it worth the risk to potentially inherit a player that could score vast numbers of goals but with an extremely uncertain injury history?
Hooper could be prolific in the right team. He could turn out to be an absolute steal. He could also turn out to do little more than sit on the table in the physio’s room. That is the risk of every transfer. There are two sides to every signing, it’s only that with Hooper, the negative elements are that much more likely.
Hooper is a goalscorer. But he is hamstrung by injury. Is he worth it? That is what all MLS clubs must now make a decision on.