When the Sounders signed Kenny Cooper in the December before last season, we didn't know which Cooper we'd be getting. Even-year Kenny Cooper earned a Bundesliga contract as a young MLS rising star and then came back to score 18 goals paired with Thierry Henry in New York. Odd-year Kenny Cooper struggled as a forward in Portland in 2011 and a wide midfielder in Dallas in 2013. But the year ended in 4, so that was promising.
It turns out we got the good Cooper in cup play and he earned an incomplete in league play. Stuck behind Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey at forward and losing out to the hot foot (and head) of Chad Barrett to be first backup, he didn't get much time up top in MLS. And behind Marco Pappa and Lamar Neagle, he didn't get much time on the wing either. His 989 league minutes were the fewest he'd ever played in an MLS season, and he took the fewest shots and scored the fewest goals he's ever had in an MLS season.
Where he did shine was in US Open Cup play, and oh how he did shine. He scored six goals in five games en route to winning the tournament Golden Boot (despite not playing in the final) and the Player of the Tournament award, the 6th Sounder to win that honor in the last 7 years.
He also might be the nicest guy you'll ever meet.
Soft scoring touch and an ability to find space in the attack can get him a lot of goals when someone else is creating the chances. Doesn't play up to his size to hold the ball up or be a consistent threat on set pieces. Lack of a reliable cross or ability to get by defenders limits his utility on the wing.
He has a forward's eye for defense. Will run to stay in roughly the right place but isn't going to go in for any tackles.
A big player who doesn't play big. Prefers to keep the ball on the ground and use his technique rather than win physical contests in the air. Has good speed for his size but won't be winning any track meets.
Best Case 2015:
Beating out the returning Chad Barrett to be primary backup to Oba and Dempsey at forward, which suits his skills better than the wing. And making another run as a starting forward in Open Cup and CCL group stage matches. Twelve to fifteen goals in all competitions would be a nice return for a player who's an MVP candidate in his good years.