By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer
TUKWILA, Wash. – Kenny Cooper was there when the Seattle vs. Portland rivalry made its debut at the Major League Soccer level.
At that time, Cooper was representing the Rose City. When the Cascadia rivalry resumes on Saturday with the Timbers hosting the Sounders, Cooper will now be representing the Emerald City.
"I think there is a lot of pride at stake. I think as players I think we all understand how much the game means to our fans. It's an added motivation for us to go out there and give our best for them," Cooper said. "There's always an amazing energy whether it's here or there and I'm sure we'll be well supported there and hopefully we'll send our fans home happy."
Cooper is part of a small group that has now been part of both sides of the most heated rivalry in MLS. Because of the often significant player movement during the league's offseason, it was inevitable there would come a point where key players for one team would eventually join the other.
It's happened for Seattle with the addition of Cooper, who was with the Timbers during their inaugural MLS season in 2011. On the flip side, Seattle's first draft pick in club history, Steve Zakuani, and former goalkeeper Andrew Weber now play for the Timbers.
Consider it the evolution of a clash now entering its fourth season of MLS play.
"It was special to be part of their inaugural season," Cooper said of his one year with the Timbers. "There was an incredible buzz. It was a memorable year, a really special year. The fans treated me really well and it was a fun thing to be a part of."
The rivalry reached a new level last season when the Timbers and Sounders met in the Western Conference semifinals. The Timbers took a 2-1 victory in Seattle, then backed that up with a 3-2 win in Portland to advance to the conference finals 5-3 on aggregate. The Sounders' playoff exit was the low point of a massive late season collapse that saw Portland surge ahead in the standings and advance further in the playoffs for the first time.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said this week that the playoff loss doesn't make the rivalry feel different, but admitted what transpired in the postseason still sticks with his club.
"It doesn't feel different to me. I don't think it feels different to them," Schmid said. "It's something that is always going to be there just because of the historical tradition of the two cities and the tradition that goes back to '74 and the NASL. It's not something you're going to change."
Cooper scored his first goal for Seattle in last week's 2-1 loss to Columbus. After the decision not to bring back Eddie Johnson, Seattle sought a bigger striker to pair up front with the short, speedy Obafemi Martins and Cooper fit the need.
"The result is more important than the individual goals and unfortunately the result didn't go our way," Cooper said. "But as a forward you always want to be part of the goals whether you're scoring them or helping create them."
Seattle will have Clint Dempsey back from a two-game suspension, although he played 90 minutes on Wednesday night during the U.S. national team's 2-2 exhibition draw against Mexico. The Timbers are without suspended goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, leaving Weber to make the start against his old club. Portland also has injury concerns with Zakuani and Darlington Nagbe adding to a winless start through four games.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.