FRISCO – On a predictably hot and humid summer morning at Toyota Soccer Center, a familiar figure jogged around the FC Dallas training ground. For fans of a certain age, the tall, broad shouldered figure is unmistakable. Kenny Cooper, FC Dallas’ second all-time leading goal-scorer, is enjoying a return to the club where he made his name.
Cooper enjoyed five prolific seasons at FC Dallas. The 6-foot-3-inch striker became the centerpiece of the team’s offense after joining from Manchester United in 2006 and went on to score 40 MLS goals before accepting an offer to play in Germany. Cooper’s time in Dallas earned him two FC Dallas MVP awards, an MLS Best XI selection and a Comeback Player of the Year award, as well as an All-Star game appearance.
Now, four years into his retirement, Cooper has returned to his native Dallas to start his own soccer school: the Kenny Cooper Academy at the Performance Indoor Training center in Frisco.
In preparation, Cooper is assisting with FC Dallas’ first-team training sessions; learning the trade while imparting wisdom garnered during his 11-year playing career.
“It’s been an incredible opportunity,” Cooper said. “I’ve just relished the time that I’ve had back in this world I know so well and I’ve missed a lot. It’s been very special to reconnect with the club to be back in a familiar setting, and I’m eager to be a support in any way that I can.
“I have a lot of experience in the league. I have a lot of experience where I can relate to players, and any time that I’m out there I just want to be a positive presence around the place.”
Few understand the benefit of Cooper’s experience better than FCD Director of Soccer Operations Marco Ferruzzi. Ferruzzi served as assistant coach during the entirety of Cooper’s FC Dallas career and was the one who contacted him with the idea of a return to the club.
“Kenny’s just a great person all the way around,” Ferruzzi said. “He’s obviously an important member of our club. He wore the shirt with a lot of pride and did wonderful things here. So, it’s a big part of who he is, and where his family is from, so it only makes sense. We’ve tried to do this throughout our history here, to be welcoming for all of the people who have come here and put the work in and been a part of this family.”
Cooper’s relationship with FC Dallas is two-fold. Cooper’s father, Kenny Cooper Sr., played 10 seasons with the Dallas Tornado of the North American Soccer League (NASL)—a franchise also owned by FC Dallas patriarch Lamar Hunt before it folded in 1981.
“My father and I, my family, have such a deep sense of gratitude toward the Hunt family,” Cooper said. “My father played more or less his whole career with the Dallas Tornado. And I was fortunate enough to play in Dallas for the Hunt family as well. I know that we share that deep sense of gratitude for the family for the opportunities that we’ve had in the game here.”
Cooper joins a growing contingent of former FCD players returning in coaching roles. Current assistant coach Peter Luccin played two seasons in Frisco before joining the youth coaching ranks. Brazilian Michel Garbini Perreira and former Dallas Burn midfielder Eric Quill head FC Dallas’ second team, North Texas SC.
“Our club is open to our family all the time,” Ferruzzi said on the club’s relationships with former players. “The type of experience, knowledge and perspective that guys who have been through it can provide to the young guys coming up is immense. It’s fantastic.”
“Personally speaking, they’ve given me such an incredible welcome,” Cooper said on his return. “I have a history with the club that’s so special to me, and I think with that comes a desire and eagerness to give back and give support.
“It’s been so special to again have the opportunity to come spend time here at FC Dallas with the staff and the players. It’s just been an incredible experience coming back home.”