MONTREAL – The wait was unusually long, but Kenny Cooper made it to Montreal.
In town since Monday night, Cooper took part in his first training session as a member of the Montreal Impact on Tuesday. Questions about his move from the Seattle Sounders inevitably followed. “Financial considerations” led to Seattle waiving Cooper on April 2, but Montreal announced that they had claimed him off waivers some 10 days later.
Given Montreal’s interest in the player, one could wonder what details needed to be worked out. But all the smoke has cleared at last, and Cooper praised the city’s “great soccer tradition” and “fan culture” as he spoke to the Montreal media for the first time.
“I’m really happy to be here,” Cooper told reporters. “I have some friends on the team, some friends that used to play on the team. I spoke to a lot of people, and I’ve heard a lot of great things. I’ve been here a couple of times. … I feel honored to be a part of that, and I look to represent the club in a positive way, giving my best for the fans.”
Asked to explain the ins and outs of the deal, Cooper chuckled, saying that someone else may be better off answering. Head coach Frank Klopas obliged but shed minimal light on the convoluted process.
“With the league, there’s so many rules,” Klopas said. “I guess he went through [waivers], depending on what money they had agreed the team to pay, and he came to us, so we took him. I guess teams passed up. With salary cap space, I don’t know where a lot of teams are at this point, and for some, they didn’t have the space to get him. It’s good for us, because we needed some depth there.”
Montreal know what type of player they are getting in Cooper. After eight MLS seasons with four other teams, Cooper surely has few secrets left for regular followers of the league.
But Cooper has played just 64 minutes of MLS action in the last seven months. For the Montreal staff, the question is whether Cooper's fitness prepares him for game minutes as soon as next Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League final first leg at Club América – a fine incentive for Cooper to move to Montreal in the first place.
“I feel great,” Cooper said. “I take a lot of pride in trying to look after myself. I like to think I’m fresh, so again, it’s good to get the session in, and it definitely felt good. I’m eager to play and contribute to the team.”
The Impact needed an immediate contributor. Cameron Porter’s spectacular rise provided them with an unexpectedly reliable option, but an ACL tear has ruled him out for this season. Jack McInerney has scored twice in his last three games in all competitions, but behind him, solutions at the lone true forward position are young and raw.
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Cooper brings experience, a bigger body up top – though not necessarily an overly physical presence – and some leeway for Klopas when he has to switch things around.
“In times, can we put two guys [up front] when we need to push the game, with [Ignacio] Piatti as a third guy? Yeah, for sure, and that gives us the option to do so,” Klopas said.
“I’ve been in the game for a long time,” Cooper said. “My family has been in the game for a long time. I don't think anything surprises me in soccer. I love the game. I consider it a privilege any time I can be on the field and be in a professional setting. Again, it's a really exciting time for the club here, and it's an honor to be a part of things.”