Apology accepted: Cooper says he's sorry, and Spencer says that's the 'end of story'
- Stephen Alexander
- Portland Tribune - Sports
In sports, as in life, sometimes you step out of bed and it is just not your day.
Sunday was so miserable for Portland Timbers striker Kenny Cooper, it probably would have been better if he had stayed in bed.
Cooper not only sleepwalked through most of a 3-2 home loss to D.C. United, but he also had a one-on-one run with D.C.'s goalkeeper blocked, had two goals disallowed because he was offside, had two penalty kicks stopped and - the coup de grace - got into an argument with his coach, John Spencer, and club captain Jack Jewsbury, earning him a spot on the bench in the 69th minute.
After the match, Cooper, Spencer and Jewsbury were left doing damage control at Jeld-Wen Field.
'To be fair, he's been great,' Spencer said, of Cooper. 'He's disappointed in himself. You're talking about a guy that's probably made one mistake in his whole career, and that was today.'
The 6-3, 210-pound Texan never caught a break in the match.
In the fourth minute, Cooper found himself running down the pitch alone on a breakaway. Just as he got inside the 18-yard box, he fired a shot. D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid came out to meet Cooper and blocked the shot at point-blank range.
Things got worse for Cooper in the 42nd minute. Diego Chara dribbled down the center of the pitch and sent a pass to fellow Colombian Jorge Perlaza. Perlaza got the ball to Cooper, who took a touch and sent in a 15-yard shot to the far post. The goal was disallowed before Cooper even shot, though, when he was called for being offside.
Cooper appeared to score again in the 58th minute, when Jewsbury sent a free kick into the box. Cooper circled around a number of D.C. United defenders and got behind them before the ball reached him. Though Cooper's header went into the back of the net, the goal was again disallowed because he was offside.
Timbers officials didn't give Cooper a chance to comment on any of those plays. After the match, he answered questions for less than two minutes before the media relations department stepped in and ended the conversation.
The brief interview time was spent on what happened in the 67th minute.
It all began after a throw-in and a D.C. United foul on Cooper that gave the Timbers a penalty kick.
Cooper's first attempt, a soft lob to the bottom left corner, was blocked. The official ruled that Hamid had come off the line early, though, and the Timbers were given a second PK.
Cooper's second effort, a soft lob to the bottom right corner, also was blocked. Again, the official ruled that Hamid had come off the line early, setting up a third PK.
Spencer decided to let Jewsbury take the kick instead of Cooper. As Jewsbury stepped up to the ball, so did Cooper. The teammates argued with each other.
Spencer had to come onto the pitch to tell Cooper he wanted Jewsbury to take the kick.
Cooper switched from arguing with Jewsbury to arguing with Spencer.
'After missing two, he's wanting to stand up and say, 'Listen, I'm not going to duck away from this, I'm going to score this one,' ' Spencer said. 'And for me, we can't put someone's personal situation before the team's situation. And I told him that.'
Cooper finally let Jewsbury step up to the ball. Jewsbury found the back of the net with his shot, but the damage of the argument was done.
Two minutes later, in the 69th minute, Cooper was subbed out of the match for Ryan Pore. Though Spencer slapped Cooper on the back as he walked past him, the coach did not look the striker in the eye.
'I subbed him out because I've got to let him know that I'm the guy that's, not the boss around here, but I'm the head coach and I make the decisions,' Spencer said. 'When I tell someone that Jack Jewsbury is going to take the kick, then they need to respect that decision.'
In the locker room, Cooper was remorseful.
'I'm embarrassed by my actions,' he said. 'I made a mistake, and I should have shown more respect to our captain and our coach and not put up a fight like I did. So, obviously, I'm very sorry for that.'
Cooper did not try to cover himself by blaming the incident on his competitive nature.
'Certainly, I'm hungry to do well for the team and score goals for them,' he said. 'But at the end of the day, Jack's our captain and John's our coach, and I have an incredible amount of respect for them and I should've shown it better.'
Jewsbury said Cooper was taking the fallout hard.
'If any of you guys know Kenny, he's probably the nicest guy in the locker room,' Jewsbury said. 'So when you guys ask these questions, for him, it hurts and hits closer to home for him probably than anyone else.'
On top of his public apology, Cooper apologized to Spencer in front of the Timbers.
'I spoke to him,' Spencer said. 'He's apologized to me in front of the group, he's apologized to his teammates. He's not that kind of guy. There's not one person in Major League Soccer that knows the kid that will say a bad thing about him. He had a rush of blood to the head, wanted to make it right by taking the third one, and we couldn't take any chances.'
Cooper also made a special effort to apologize to Jewsbury.
'I'm not lying when I say he's probably come up to me 10 times and said, 'I'm sorry for an awkward situation,' ' Jewsbury said.
Spencer said that there will be no further repercussions for Cooper
'Anybody who knows me will tell you I'm not a grudge-holder,' Spencer said. 'I was upset at the time. That's why I took him off. End of story for me.'
When Cooper was asked whether he would be able to put the argument in the past, Jewsbury - who has a locker next to Cooper - interrupted.
'Yeah,' Jewsbury said. 'We still love each other. It's over. It's done.'
Cooper looked at the reporters around him. He swallowed hard and said, 'Certainly I hope so.'