FRISCO, Texas -- It was true in 2006 and it remains the same in 2013. If you’re a journalist who wants to chat with Kenny Cooper after an FCD morning practice, you’d better bring a sack lunch.
Cooper, who joined the FC Dallas Century Club after making his 100th start for the franchise against Philadelphia, has always prided himself on being the first player on the field in the morning and the last one off the pitch at the end of the day.
“I was fortunate enough to be exposed to the professional game at a really young age and to go into practice with [my father] seeing what being a good professional was all about,” Cooper said. “I grew up around a lot of former teammates like Neil Cohen, Charlie DeLong, Mike Renshaw, so many guys who were good, honest professionals who were also great ambassadors for the game and really showed a way that I admired and want to emulate.”
There’s no doubt that growing up around the NASL’s Dallas Tornado, coached by his father Kenny Sr., was certainly a major contributor to establishing the practice habits we see today. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that Cooper started his own career at English giants Manchester United, occasionally training with the likes of long-time veterans Roy Keane, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville.
“To start off my career at Manchester United, I’m not sure you can start off at a better club and they do a great job of integrating the younger players with the first team players,” said Cooper. “You get that exposure to first class professionals who are some of the best in our trade.”
While it’s commonplace for younger players to stay after training for extra work, you don’t always see 28-year-old pros sticking around late, but for Cooper, it’s simply his daily routine.
“I joke with him that he’s like a little kid out there with the same passion and drive that you see in 13 or 14-year-old kids,” said defender Stephen Keel who also played with Cooper last year in New York. “He just has a pure love for the game which is unique and refreshing to see.”
“It’s always been consistent ever since he came on the scene with us,” said assistant coach Marco Ferruzzi who first coached him in 2006. “He always had the same methodology and process where he always wanted to get extra touches and wanted to train afterwards…I know for strikers the more they hit the back of the net, it’s confidence-building for sure. They just flow a little bit better and see the shot coming before it comes.”
With over 100 starts and 43 Major League Soccer goals for FC Dallas to his name(second-most in franchise history), there’s plenty Cooper has accomplished, and now his sights are set on leading FC Dallas to a first MLS Cup of his career.
“Oh my gosh, I mean winning MLS Cup is definitely one of my big goals and I would love to do it here in my hometown with this great team we have,” said Cooper. “I think everybody wants to be a champion and it’s definitely something that keeps me motivated; trying to be a player that can help contribute to a championship team.”
He’ll probably be the last one off the field that night as well.
“I’ll never forget Charlie DeLong would tell me to enjoy it while you can because it doesn’t last forever,” said Cooper. “Being told things like that really put a sense of appreciation in your mind and a sense of making sure you enjoy the moment, because it doesn’t last forever.”