Cooper poses a threat for Toronto FC
Kenny Cooper isn't terribly flashy, but he is a defender's worst nightmare.
What makes Cooper so dangerous is his ability to conjure goals out of nothing and single-handedly influence the game at a drop of a hat.
After finishing the 2008 Major League Soccer season as the league's second-best scorer with 18 goals, the FC Dallas striker has picked up where he left off a year ago, scoring twice in his first three games of the current campaign.
Needless to say, stopping Cooper will be high on Toronto FC's list of priorities when it hosts FC Dallas on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3:30 p.m. ET).
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Toronto knows all about the Dallas forward and what he is capable of doing.
Cooper scored two goals — including one from the penalty spot in injury time — to help Dallas earn a come-from-behind 2-2 draw against Toronto late last season, a result that all but eliminated the Canadian club from playoff contention. Toronto defender Jim Brennan said what makes Cooper so dangerous is that he combines physical strength with intelligence.
"He's a very good striker and he's a strong player," Brennan told CBCSports.ca. "He's clever and he can score goals. Defensively, we have to be on our game and mark him tight and keep him away from our net."
Stopping Cooper has to be a team effort, and Toronto's forwards must get involved and act as the first line of defence in trying to contain the Dallas striker, according to Toronto's captain.
"When you're defending, you have to start from the front with the forwards, and go all the way to the goalkeeper. Everyone has to defend," Brennan said.
In last week's home opener against the Seattle Sounders, Brennan and his teammates struggled to contain another offensive star, Freddie Ljungberg. The Swede made them pay, scoring a goal and terrorizing Toronto's defence in a 2-0 win for the Sounders.
Trying to nullify Cooper poses another daunting challenge for Toronto.
"We all know about the threat up front for Dallas with Kenny Cooper, and he can score goals from anywhere, as we saw last season," Toronto coach John Carver said.
"He hasn't got the same type of movement as a player like Freddie Ljungberg, but he scored against us twice last year, so we know exactly what he can do."
Carver also stressed that Toronto, sporting a 1-1-1 record, can't afford to take Dallas (0-3) lightly.
"I don't think their record is a true reflection of how good they are. I watched their game against New England last week [a 2-1 loss] and in the first half they outplayed the Revolution.… We can't relax and just think we will automatically win because they haven't won a game yet," Carver explained.
Carver lambasted his players in a post-match news conference following last week's loss to Seattle, calling his team's overall effort against the expansion franchise "a disgrace."
The Toronto coach said his players responded with plenty of hard work in training this past week, but he also revealed he planned to re-jig his starting lineup for Saturday's game after the Seattle debacle.
"One thing is for sure, I am going to be making changes to the side," Carver said. "I'm not going to say what those changes are, but there will be changes in personnel."