portland timbers striker kenny cooper
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Portland's Cooper hopes to come back stronger in 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. – Following a head-spinning season, things won’t be slowing down anytime soon for Portland Timbers forward Kenny Cooper.

The Thanksgiving weekend will kick of a whirlwind of traveling and family visits for the holidays, all of which will culminate with a January wedding when Cooper and his fiancée Molly Grimm get married. Cooper and Grimm will head back to their home state of Maryland for the big event, while mixing in a trip to Texas, where Cooper also has family.

“So I’m real excited about that,” Cooper said of his marriage. “It’s an exciting time for us, getting married. And I think both of us are looking forward to spending time with our family.”

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It’s a big offseason for Cooper, following an up-and-down season with the Timbers that saw his benching and then emergence as the team’s top scorer. The 27-year-old was considered the Timbers' marquee acquisition as a one-time prolific striker who netted 18 goals for FC Dallas in 2008. But a 14-game stretch without a goal resulted in Cooper’s being left out of the starting lineup.

It was only after a fluke injury to forward Eddie Johnson, during the warm-up against the LA Galaxy on Aug. 3, that Cooper got his spot back. He scored the next game against San Jose and then scored four goals in Portland’s final seven games to finish with a team-high eight on the season.

“I think that the team did great, being in the playoff race right up to the end,” Cooper said. “I think everybody is disappointed that we didn’t get in the playoffs, but I think there is a lot of be proud of this season and a lot to look forward to. The team has a lot of quality, a lot of quality and a lot of great youth. And it’s a really bright future for the club. And I think next year is going to be better than this year. I think everyone will be hungry to obviously get in the playoffs.”

Cooper said in addition to the busy offseason, he looks forward to working on his game to arrive back with the club a better player.

“I look at it as a time to improve and I’ll take a good look at myself over this time and try to work on different aspects of my game and try to come back a better player next year,” Cooper said. “Spending time with family and friends, I certainly look forward to that. But I also look forward to working individually on myself as a player and hopefully coming back as a better player next year with the Timbers.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at dcitel@hotmail.com

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