When the New York Red Bulls square off against the Portland Timbers at home on Sunday, Kenny Cooper will be seeing some familiar faces. The Red Bulls leading goal scorer spent last season with the Timbers, the team’s first in MLS, scoring eight goals during the 2011 campaign. New York acquired Cooper on a draft day deal back in January of this season, sending its first round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft to the Timbers in exchange for the forward.
Cooper admitted that he is excited about the opportunity to go up against his former club.
“There’s a lot of players that I have good relationships with, a lot of people I respect,” Cooper said while speaking to members of the media after the team’s training session at Red Bull Arena Friday afternoon. “I think it will be good to see some familiar faces and maybe have a chat with them after, so I’m very much looking forward to the game.”
While only playing in Portland for one season, the New York forward looks back on his time with Timbers with great fondness.
“It was a special time in my life, being a part of the Timbers inaugural season in the MLS,” Cooper said. “They have an incredible fan base which is obvious to see even if you’re not playing there, you can see on TV how much passion they have.”
One of the more unique traditions held by the Timber faithful includes watching their beloved mascot, Timber Joey, use a chainsaw to cut off a piece of a gigantic log after every Portland home goal that is then delivered to each goal scorer. Cooper was fortunate enough to score half of his 2011 tallies at home, setting Timber Joey in motion.
“It’s a really great tradition that they have. It’s a club that, although they’ve been in the league for just a year, they’ve been around for a long time,” Cooper said. “
They have an incredible fan base, a great tradition there with cutting off the log, celebrating a shutout or a goal that the team accomplishes.”
The forward saved two of the pieces of wood from his time in Portland for memory’s sake, but has since become more accustomed to the passion brought to every game by members of New York’s South Ward.
“I remember the goal [Jan Gunnar] Solli scored a couple weeks ago [against D.C. United] there was like a boom in the stadium,” Cooper said. “The guys get fired up when you walk out and the seats are filled and there’s a great energy. Hopefully we can look forward to more of those atmospheres and send the people home happy.”
Cooper and the Red Bulls will be looking to send the fans into even more hysteria on Sunday, as New York tries to improve upon their 8-0-3 home record and stay within the hunt for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Despite Portland’s last place position in the Western Conference with a record of 5-12-6, Cooper sees the Timbers’ chance to take down the home team at Red Bull Arena as a motivating factor for the struggling club. It’s definitely not a situation he or the team is planning to take lightly.
“They’re coming off a tie and I’m sure they’ll have a lot of confidence coming off that result,” Cooper said. “I think any time you come into someone’s stadium where they are unbeaten I think you’re aware of that and want to break that streak, so I’m sure they’ll want to break our unbeaten run that we’ve had here at home.”
While the former Timber looks back on his time in Portland with a smile, he will be all business come game time when the two sides kick off at 7 PM Sunday evening (Watch on MSG+).
“Obviously I wish them the best, but hopefully on Sunday we can get the best of them.”
Tickets to Sunday’s match are available on Red Bulls Ticket Central or by calling 877.RB.SOCCER. The first 5,000 fans 12 and under through the gate receive a free Ryan Meara jersey tee.