When the Sounders-Timbers rivalry was introduced to Major League Soccer in 2011, forward Kenny Cooper was there, wearing Portland’s ax crest.
He will be part of the rivalry again Saturday, but this time his crest will show Seattle’s Space Needle.
“It’s one of the most exciting games of the year,” Cooper said this week after training with the Sounders. “I think a lot of people mark this one on their calendars — even people who aren’t fans of either team. It’s always an amazing atmosphere. Both teams are always well-supported, and the game should be a lot of fun.”
Cooper, a veteran of eight MLS seasons and four MLS teams, played with the Timbers during their 2011 expansion season. He contributed eight goals
and two assists over 34 matches.
That turned out to be Cooper’s only season in Portland, but he recalls it fondly.
“There were a lot of new guys that first year, and we really came together and formed some close bonds,” he said. “I consider Jack Jewsbury a very good friend of mine, and he’s done really well there. It’s always good when you go back to an old club to see some old friends and some old faces, and to have an opportunity to show appreciation to the fans for supporting you during your time there. But once that whistle blows, it’s all business.”
After that expansion season, the Timbers traded Cooper to the New York Red Bulls, where he broke through for 18 goals, matching his career high.
The following season was back at FC Dallas, where he had started his MLS career from 2006-2009. He scored six goals last season before the Sounders acquired his rights in December.
Cooper scored the 72nd goal of his MLS career — and his first as a Sounder — last weekend in Seattle’s 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew.
“The result is more important than the individual goals,” he said. “As a forward I think you always want to be a part of the goals, whether you’re scoring them or helping create them. What we all look to do throughout the year is try to be a danger to other teams and help the team score.”
Cooper has appeared in all four matches for the Sounders (2-2) this season, starting three. He has a goal and an assist, and his eight shots are second on the team behind Lamar Neagle (10).
“Kenny’s done all right,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I still think he’s been dangerous when he’s been running at people. I thought he finished his goal well. He should have maybe had another one if he gets his shot off a little quicker on the second opportunity. But he’s done what we expected, and he’s worked really, really hard.”
Cooper is the only current Sounder to have played for the Timbers (0-2-2). However, there are a couple of former Sounders on the Portland roster.
Midfielder Steve Zakuani, who played his first five seasons in Seattle, is listed as questionable due to a hamstring injury. But goalkeeper Andrew Weber is expected to start in place of Donovan Ricketts, who will serve the second of a two-game disciplinary suspension.
“It spices up the rivalry,” said Sounders assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, who has been involved with this Cascadia Cup series since his days playing with the Sounders of the North American Soccer League and his seven seasons coaching the Sounders of the United Soccer Leagues.
Fifth-year forward David Estrada has joined the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL on loan. ... An independent review panel has rescinded the fine and one-game suspension of Portland defender Michael Harrington, making him eligible for the Sounders’ noon Saturday visit to Providence Park. ... Schmid indicated that midfielder Brad Evans (calf) will not be ready to play this weekend, but returning U.S. national team members Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin will be.