Kenny Cooper returned to MLS this past season after a frustrating stint overseas. First with 1860
where injuries and circumstance kept him out of the first team, then a challenging loan to Plymouth Argyle. With each team failing to be a positive match for Cooper, he returned to MLS. He did so with great success. Munich
Rather than return to his former MLS team, FC Dallas, he found himself on the roster for the expansion Portland Timbers. From there he’s never looked back. Scoring eight goals in his first season back and with the team nearly reaching the playoffs, many would deem the season a success for Cooper. Many would, but not Kenny Cooper himself. In talking with him several things are apparent. First would be his love for the team and the city. He spoke multiple times about his love for the Timbers and how honored he felt to be in a city that is so passionate. Second, like the team, he’s never satisfied. This man wants to win a championship. Read on to find out exactly what he had to say about his first season back in Major League Soccer.
MLS Reserves: Looking back over
’s first season, what’s the general vibe of the team? Portland
Kenny Cooper: “I think looking back at things it was a time where the team has grown a whole lot. With it being the team’s first year in the league, with new guys to the league and new guys playing with each other, I think as a group the team really grew. You could see that towards the end of the season. The team did really well down the last stretch of the season and were in the hunt for those playoffs right up until the end.”
“Unfortunately we didn’t make it and everyone is disappointed. I think we’re a hungry and ambitious group. There’s a lot of quality and individually we improved and as a group. As a team we improved throughout the season and did a great job to fight for the playoff spot right up to the end. Looking back though, I think the team really grew a lot.”
MLS Reserves: How difficult is it being an expansion team? More importantly how difficult is it being an expansion team in a place like
where you’ve got tremendous fan support and with that fan support, pressure? Portland
Kenny Cooper: “It’s a dream to play here. To play in a city that loves the game so much and supports the team the way
has is really a privilege. I feel very fortunate to be here and play here. I think that growing up we all dream about not only playing professionally but playing in packed stadiums. We’re wear fans love and support their team. It’s a real privilege to be a Timber and to play in front of these fans…it’s amazing.” Portland
MLS Reserves: Returning to the league after a challenging stint overseas, did you feel pressure at all to perform? Were you pleased with the way you finished the season?
Kenny Cooper: “I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied. I have big dreams and high ambitions. I want to one day be an MLS Champion and I want to do that here with the Timbers. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied until that happens. I’m very thankful to John [Spencer] and co. for having me here and to play in a city that loves the team so much.”
“I feel very fortunate to play for a guy like John who as a player and a coach has amazing experience. There’s so much to learn from him and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
MLS Reserves: You talked about wanting to win an MLS Cup and wanting to do it with
, what about personal goals? Do you ever think to yourself “I want to score eight goals, ten goals, five goals…” What goes through your mind on a personal level? Portland
Kenny Cooper: “I do set those personal goals and part of that is, if anything, I take things day to day. I want to make sure that on a daily basis I’m working hard on and off the field. My hope is that if I do that, it translates to good performances.”
“I’m 27 now and it’s my hope that my best days are still ahead of me. I’ve had great experiences in the league and abroad… and for me to set goals for myself, they’re high. But I’ll never be satisfied until I’m an MLS Cup Champion.”
MLS Reserves: Specifically what is it in the offseason that
is looking to improve? Portland
Kenny Cooper: “We want to improve upon this past season. We want to make the playoffs and make sure that we’re doing the right things to get there. The fans want to see playoff soccer and we want to do that for them.”
MLS Reserves: What is your best memory of the Timber’s opening season?
Kenny Cooper: “There have been a lot of them. Each home game is a highlight. Any time you have the opportunity to walk out in front of the Timbers Army and hear the national anthem is special. Those are memories that certainly I’ll cherish and hope to have more of.”
MLS Reserves: Away from the soccer field and in the offseason, what is it you do to recharge your batteries?
Kenny Cooper: “I want to enjoy some time with my family. I’m actually getting married this off season and I’m really looking forward to that. Obviously spending time with my family and my fiancé’s family is great. I also want to individually try to get better and come in to the next season in shape, ready to go.”
“I look at the offseason as an opportunity to hit the gym alone and work on those things individually that will make me better. I really enjoy that time where I work on myself and then come back as a better player. It’s all areas that I want to get better. Physically and mentally. I want to come back a more skillful player and a better athlete.”
It’s great to see Kenny Cooper returning to form. It’s just as great to see that coincide with a soccer city that shows such a passion for the game. Cooper’s attitude of ‘never satisfied’ is echoed by the fans unyielding support for their team. Cooper scored eight goals in his first season back, a promising start in his return to the league. As the Timbers look to build on a promising first year, Kenny Cooper can do much the same because as he says: the best is yet to come.