Cooper: I'm just coming into my best years
PORTLAND, Ore. — Kenny Cooper is ready to return to Major League Soccer and the Portland Timbers are ready to have him.
The Timbers announced Monday they have signed Cooper pending the receipt of his International Transfer Certificate. After two injury-riddled seasons with TSV 1860 Munich in Germany’s 2.Bundesliga, the 26-year-old striker returned to MLS through the allocation process.
“I know there’s a lot of excitement and huge buzz for the team around (Portland),” Cooper said on Monday, speaking from Munich. “I crave being in that environment.”
Cooper played four seasons at FC Dallas (2006-09) and tallied 40 goals and 10 assists in 90 regular season matches. He was named to the MLS Best XI in 2008.
After spending the first couple of months building the roster with some key defensive acquisitions, the Timbers turned to the attack in the past few days. They added No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick Darlington Nagbe last week, and now Cooper.
“I think it’s a massive signing for the club,” Timbers coach John Spencer said. “He’s a player of tremendous quality and one who knows how to score goals in this league.”
Cooper left MLS in 2009 seeking a new challenge in Europe. In two seasons, he made only 15 first-team appearances with 1860 and scored just three goals.
“I certainly don’t have any regrets,” Cooper said. “I think any experience you have, good or bad, is valuable. It was a great opportunity at the time. Unfortunately, I had some injuries while I’ve been here and that kept me off the field more than I’d like.”
In returning to MLS and making a fresh start, Cooper may help his chances of being recalled to the US national team. He appeared for his country only once after moving to Europe, donning the US jersey in a World Cup qualifier in October 2009.
Spencer calls Cooper “a complete striker.” At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he is a big forward, but his size his not what defines him as a player.
“He’s good with his feet and he’s got mobility from side to side,” Spencer said. “He’s a little bit different from a Conor Casey, who plays with his back to goal. (Cooper) links up well, runs channels and strikes a good ball with both feet.”
Cooper believes he returns to MLS a better player than when he left.
“I certainly hope so,” Cooper said. “I am always open to growth and becoming a better player. I never want to stop growing as a player or person. I’m 26 years old right now and hope I’m coming into my best years.”