PORTLAND, Ore. – Kenny Cooper was a name that crossed the desk of the Portland Timbers, and then crossed off because the likelihood of him returning to the US was considered slim.
But Timbers general manager and technical director Gavin Wilkinson wouldn’t let the issue rest and doggedly pursued the 1860 Munich man and former FC Dallas star.
Wilkinson’s persistence paid off. After two years in the Munich ranks – which included a loan to English side Plymouth Argyle – Cooper joined the Timbers on Jan. 17. On Thursday, he was formally introduced to the Portland media.
WATCH: Cooper's press conference
“We believed he wanted to get back to the US to revive his career, to get back to the national team scene and started to look at how best to move forward,” Wilkinson said of Cooper. “We continued to push MLS, we continued to push Kenny and we continued to push Kenny’s club in Germany. It took a lot of hard work and cooperation from MLS to make this happen.”
Cooper, 26, will begin training with the Timbers on Friday. He said he is ready to get started with the first-year MLS club.
[inline_node:328534]“It’s really a great privilege to come to what is known as Soccer City, USA,” Cooper said. “My sincere hope is that we will make Timbers Army and everyone associated with the club proud.”
Portland’s reputation and the city’s growing buzz for the upcoming season are said to have been factors in prying the 6-foot-3 forward back to the US.
WATCH: Cooper's MLS highlights
“First and foremost, he wanted to be in Portland,” Wilkinson said.
Cooper, who played with the Manchester United reserve team out of high school, enjoyed a successful run in his hometown of Dallas, scoring 40 goals in 90 games, before leaving for Europe in 2009. It didn’t work out the way he had hoped it would and an ankle injury hampered his career abroad.
In Portland, Cooper hopes to reclaim his status as a top player in MLS and put himself in position to be part of the US national team mix again.
“Being part of the national team has been certainly one of the highlights of my career,” Cooper said. “Having had some opportunities, it leaves you hungry for more of them. I want to be a professional every day with the Timbers and hope that good performances with the club hopefully translate into more national team opportunities.”
Coach John Spencer lauded Cooper as “a massive asset to this football club.”
“He is one of the top young American players in the game today,” Spencer said.
As an attacking player with a nose for the goal, Cooper will be a central piece of the Timbers’ first MLS roster.
“He can play up top, along the line, up the middle, wide right, wide left,” Spencer said. “He has completeness to his game. He can play with his back to goal and he has two great feet.”
Team owner Merritt Paulson said Cooper a perfect match for his franchise.
“We had a lot of high caliber players come across our desk that we could try and sign to bring to the team [through allocation],” Paulson said. “It all stopped when we saw Kenny Cooper’s name. He’s the right fit for this team.”
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