Kenny Cooper’s first goal since late April nearly kept the Portland Timbers’ feel-good party going on the heels of their 3-0 victory on Wednesday against the LA Galaxy.
But as it is, Portland will have to settle for a muted celebration after Cooper’s strike in the 23rd minute was equalized by an Alan Gordon goal in the second half of a 1-1 tie Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium.
“We want to make the playoffs,” Cooper said. “We had a great result. Again, after the midweek game against a top team, we showed great desire and determination in that game. But I thought we played well again and to get a point away from home. As long as it’s still possible, we’re going to keep battling and keep fighting, and the goal is to make the playoffs.”
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It was a rewarding moment for Cooper, who hadn’t seen the back of the net since he scored on April 30 against Real Salt Lake. His season hit a low point when he was removed from the starting lineup after a 4-0 loss June 25 loss against FC Dallas.
But Cooper was forced back into action against Galaxy when starting forward Eddie Johnson sustained a concussion during warm-ups. And Cooper made the most of it, receiving praise for his play in that game.
It continued against San Jose, and this time he was rewarded when he split the Earthquakes defense for a one-time touch from the top of the box on a cross from Jorge Perlaza. It would have been hard, however, to tell that Cooper had just broken a two-month goal scoring drought judging by his tamed celebration. After the strike, the forward gingerly jogged to the Timbers bench for a quick hug from head coach John Spencer and a few high fives from teammates.
The humble Cooper deflected praise to his teammate.
“Great, great work by Perlaza,” Cooper said. “He did really well handling the ball. He did a lot of great work and put it in place for me.”
Cooper, a prolific scorer during his first four years in MLS with Dallas — he netted 18 goals in 2008 — was a considered a major building block of the Timbers expansion team. The scoring hasn’t translated to Portland, and the goal Saturday was just his fourth of the season.
“I give the boys a lot of credit,” Cooper said. “It was a great point. I thought the boys battled well.”
The tie keeps Portland in seventh place, one point ahead of San Jose, as the Timbers run their unbeaten streak to three games. Before the Galaxy match, Spencer said he hoped his side could earn four points from the week’s two games. Three points against the first-place Galaxy and one against San Jose was probably not what he expected, however.
“I think the draw was a fair result,” Spencer said. “It was probably one of the most boring games of soccer I’ve seen in a long time. You can’t always score two, three, four goals a game.”