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Sounders’ Kenny Cooper returns to Lone Star State

Kenny Cooper came to the Sounders from FC Dallas. (Associated Press)
Kenny Cooper came to the Sounders from FC Dallas. (Associated Press)

Ahead of facing his former team, Sounders FC’s Kenny Cooper spent time this week recalling fond memories and expressing plans to pay back old fans for their support.

Wait. Wasn’t that last week?

Well, yes. The veteran forward has a few ex-teams. One is Portland, where Seattle just played to an unforgettable 4-4 tie, and another is Western Conference-leading FC Dallas, which is host to the Sounders today.

“Are we playing New York next?” joked coach Sigi Schmid, referencing the fourth team Cooper has played for the past four MLS seasons.

This trip will be particularly special, though, as Dallas is Cooper’s hometown and the most recent of the former teams.

It’s where the family settled once his father, a goalkeeper in the old North American Soccer League, retired. It’s where he starred in high school en route to signing with Manchester United as a teenager. It’s where his MLS career began in 2006 upon his return stateside following a couple years on loan from the English Premier League powerhouse.

For Cooper, this trip was immediately circled on the calendar once the schedule came out.

“Not a lot of players get the chance to (play for their hometown team), having parents and nieces and nephews in the stands,” Cooper said. “I’ve been really fortunate, and I really cherish that time that I was there.”

Full of nostalgic feelings, surely Cooper was disappointed on some level that Dallas looked to shop him in the offseason. The team elected to decline its contract option for 2014 – Cooper made $342,500 last season – and the sides couldn’t agree to a new deal.

Seattle was a willing trade partner in a move that sent Cooper’s rights and allocation money to the Sounders in exchange for midfielder Adam Moffat.

“I’m definitely happy where I am, so no bad feelings toward them,” Cooper said.

Still, it seems odd that one of the top scorers in MLS history – The 29-year-old Cooper’s 74 league goals rank 18th on the all-time list – hasn’t played two consecutive years with a team since 2008-09.

Perhaps one constant that has hurt Cooper’s standing has been his salary, which averaged more than $300,000 (not far from the designated player threshold) the past three years.