The Seattle Sounders finally put to rest the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of Kenny Cooper on Thursday, officially announcing that they have waived the veteran forward. Cooper had been conspicuously absent from Seattle’s training sessions since the beginning of the season, leading to questions surrounding his status with the club.
Speaking with reporters following Seattle’s Thursday practice at CenturyLink Field, Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey explained the reasoning behind the move, saying it was a financial decision to part ways with Cooper and that his contract has been bought out.
“I honestly wished we could have kept him,” Lagerwey said. “But it was one where long term we just didn’t see a way forward on the numbers where he was based on where our budgets were.”
Lagerwey said a trade would have been his first choice but he was unable to find a viable market for the 30-year-old striker, who has 75 career goals, good enough for 17th on the all-time MLS list.
“Would I have loved to trade a player rather than waive him and get nothing for him? Yes, I would prefer to trade him,” Lagerwey said. “But there was not a market we were able to explore. ... Guys with big [salary] numbers are a little bit more challenging to move in the short term.”
Cooper scored three goals and added four assists in limited minutes as a reserve forward last season, but made his biggest mark in US Open Cup play where he scored six goals and helped lead the Sounders to their fourth USOC title. Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid highlighted Cooper’s likability with his teammates as the biggest quality the Sounders will miss in his absence.
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“Obviously we’re going to miss Kenny. We would have loved to have Kenny stay here. It wasn’t our first choice to have it go the way it went,” Schmid said. “But unfortunately with the way the rules are and everything else that’s the way it ended up having to go. ... He’s a great pro and a great guy in the locker room. We’d love to still have him here but it wasn’t able to work out.”
Lagerwey also explained why the move took so long to materialize, saying that the club did try and work with Cooper on a way to keep him in Seattle but that the sides were unable to come to a resolution.
“We talked through some scenarios with Kenny,” Lagerwey said. “I think Kenny was interested in trying to find a way to make it work here and ultimately we weren’t able to do that. So some of the timing was us trying to figure something out with Kenny but we couldn’t.”