For five seasons, Kenny Cooper got to do something that not every MLS player has the chance to: Play for his hometown team. Now, for the third time in his career, Cooper will return to Dallas with Sounders FC to face FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium on Saturday.
“I definitely look forward to it. I have a lot of great memories playing in Dallas. I kind of consider it my hometown. I went to high school there. My parents still live there. It’s a real joy to be able to play in front of family and friends for as many years as I did and it’s definitely something that I mark on the calendar and I look forward to,” Cooper said. “To play a game with your family in the stands is really special. You don’t always get to do that. That opportunity is something that I look forward to.”
Cooper returns home with a full head of steam with Seattle, scoring two goals and one assist in his last three matches to help Sounders FC to a 2-2-1 record.
The Dallas native came to MLS after two seasons with the Manchester United reserves. He played in front of family and friends with FC Dallas from 2006-2009 before returning to Europe. Cooper scored 40 goals in 90 matches during that stretch and returned to his hometown team in 2013, scoring six goals in 31 matches before an offseason trade landed him in Seattle.
For as much as he loves home, though, Cooper also has left Dallas three times to pursue his career in other parts of the world.
First, he opted to sign with Manchester United in 2003, forgoing his commitment to play for Schellas Hyndman at Southern Methodist University. It was a difficult decision for Cooper to make because of how highly he thought of Hyndman, a coaching legend in the Dallas area who went on to success as the head coach of FC Dallas until his retirement last year.
“It was a big decision for me to walk away from that commitment and a great opportunity. SMU was a great college, it had a great soccer program and an amazing coach and it was close to home. Those are all things that I thought were awesome,” Cooper said. “Then I had the opportunity to go overseas and it was too good to turn down.”
Upon his return from Manchester United, he starred for Dallas and earned MLS Best XI honors in 2008 when he tallied 18 goals, a feat he would reach again with the New York Red Bulls in 2012.
During the 2009 season, he left Dallas again, this time testing the waters in Germany with 1860 Munich. After stops in Portland and New York, he was back in Dallas for the 2013 season, only to leave again at the end of the season to come to Seattle.
“It’s tough to move away from people that you love,” said Cooper, whose wife, Molly, has family in the New York area. “We are fortunate that we both come from close, loving families. I think we cherish the time that we had around them and to be able to play share my career with them...it is tough to leave them, but you look forward to those games that they are in the stands again.”
In two matches as a visitor to Toyota Stadium, Cooper has one goal in 127 minutes. He will look to add to that goal total while also looking to earn his first victory from the visitor’s locker room in Dallas.
Kickoff for Saturday’s match is slated for 5:30 pm PT with television coverage on JOEtv (channel 22, cable 10).