TUKWILA, Wash. – Kenny Cooper is about to join a pretty exclusive club.
The forward is already one of only a handful of players to suit up for both the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers during their MLS eras. But if he plays in the latest edition of the Cascadia rivalry, set for Saturday at Providence Park (3 pm ET; NBCSN/NBCSports.com), Cooper could become the first player to actually take the field on both sides of a Timbers-Sounders game.
Timbers goalkeeper Andrew Weber, who spent the previous two seasons in Seattle, will likely accomplish this feat as well when he gets the start for the suspended Donovan Ricketts. And Timbers forward Steve Zakuani, the Sounders No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 SuperDraft who switched sides in the rivalry over the offseason, could also join the list should he see action, although his health status for Saturday is uncertain.
And although this may give Cooper a unique perspective on the rivalry, he was doing his best not to provide any bulletin-board material.
“It’s a fun game to be a part of,” Cooper said on Thursday. “The games are just full of so much excitement and passion, and I think as players we know how much the game means to our fans, how much pride is at stake and knowing that is added motivation to just give it your best. These are the games we all circle on our calendar, and the people who aren’t even fans of either team mark it down and make sure they watch.”
While Cooper may not have been willing to admit any added motivation for playing against a team that cast him aside following an eight-goal campaign in 2011, he’s not exactly downplaying his excitement.
“These are the games we all dream of being in when we were kids,” Cooper said. “It was a dream come true to be part of this rivalry when I was with the Timbers. Everything from the tifos, to the buzz in the streets before the game, it’s all super special and just awesome.”
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Cooper returns to Portland coming off a pair of strong performances. Two weeks ago, he got his first Sounders assist. Last week, he got his first Sounders goal.
“I think he’s been dangerous when he’s running at people,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought he finished his goal well, maybe should have had another one if he gets his shot off a little bit quicker. He’s done what we expected and worked really, really hard.
"Unfortunately, he had to be sacrificed in that game [last week] once we got the red card. It wasn’t because of his play.”