Frisco, TX (Sports Network) -
According to Kenny Cooper Sr. - Major League Soccer star forward Kenny Cooper's father and advisor - it's all about respect.
It's about knowing what you're worth and getting it. It's about MLS respecting the younger Cooper's worth and anteing up.
"It comes down to everybody having a value, everybody having a worth," Cooper Sr. said in a phone interview with SportsNetwork.com. "Either people accept it and pay you what you're worth or you move on. That's just the way life is."
According to Cooper Sr., his son's camp has already turned down two offers from FC Dallas in ongoing contract negotiations. While Cooper Sr. wouldn't specify exact numbers, those offers are believed to be in the $300,000 to $400,000 per year range.
Kenny Cooper is making just north of $80,000.
While that would be a significant raise for Cooper, who is making just north of $80,000, it's not what Cooper or his agent, Lyle York, are seeking.
What exactly the Cooper camp is seeking is not known, as calls to York, who is in Europe presumably gathering offers, were not immediately returned.
The closest thing to a number Cooper Sr. revealed occurred when he said it's not out of the question for his son to get, "Landon Donovan money."
Donovan is guaranteed $900,000 as a 2008 salary with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"I think what makes it very simple is if Kenny goes over to Europe, he is making over a million a year," Cooper Sr. said. "He is not asking for anything that other people haven't recognized as his worth. It's not just what we feel, it's what proven teams from around the world feel his value is."
Is MLS willing to come close to that? If it's based on what Cooper is worth right now then probably not. But if FCD and the league base their decision on what Cooper could potentially become - both as a player and marketing tool - it might be a wise investment.
"Kenny at this point in time is not Landon Donovan," Cooper Sr. said. "Landon is older and has been the face of American soccer. As I said to [MLS] Commissioner [Don Garber at the all-star game in Toronto on July 24], David Beckham is a soccer icon but Kenny will be playing when David has retired. David is the face of soccer around the world, Landon in America. Kenny could become that face. I think he could become the face of American soccer, I really believe that. He has a long, long way to go, we don't suffer with illusions of grandeur, but Kenny is a very good player who's getting better.
"[Garber] is a big believer in Kenny. He has said Kenny is everything they would want a player to be in this league."
The negotiations between Cooper and FCD are made necessary by interest from overseas, where England's Cardiff City and Norway's Rosenborg both reportedly offered around $4 million for a transfer recently.
"I was really flattered to hear about the interest from overseas," Cooper said in a phone interview with SportsNetwork.com. "I'm aware of what kind of club Rosenborg is and the interest from Cardiff. I'm aware of both teams' quality and tradition and past. Cardiff was in the FA Cup final last year and Rosenborg has been a dominant team in Norway so I'm flattered to hear of their interest."
MLS accepted the transfer fee, but FCD declined and decided to try and negotiate a contract with its 23-year-old star in an effort to keep him for at least the rest of this season.
FC Dallas General Manager Michael Hitchcock issued the following statement on July 29 regarding transfer offers for Cooper:
"We received offers from multiple international clubs for Kenny Cooper during this transfer window, but we elected to decline them all. The international interest is a credit to Kenny, FC Dallas and the ever increasing talent level in Major League Soccer.
"Winning championships is our priority, and we feel strongly that Kenny will continue to be an important part of our success as we compete for the MLS Cup this year and in the future."
While the efforts of Cardiff and Rosenborg appear to have been squashed by FCD, there will probably be other offers from overseas before the European transfer window closes at the end of this month.
"We are communicating, we are talking," Cooper Sr. said of negotiations with FCD. "Do I think some other [European teams] will come in? Yes, I do. It just comes down to what they want to do. What does MLS want to do?"
So why all the fuss for Cooper all of a sudden?
For starters, Cooper was voted a starter in the 2008 MLS All-Star game in Toronto last month. He earned that because he's been the most consistent forward in the league through the first two-thirds of the season, and appears to be getting stronger after having his 2007 season interrupted by a broken leg. In just his third season in MLS after coming back to the States from Manchester United's youth system in February of 2006, Cooper is on the verge of super-stardom.
With two goals on Aug. 3 - a 2-0 win at Toronto FC - the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Cooper set a new personal high with 13 goals on the season with 11 games to go, moving into a tie with Donovan for the MLS lead in that category.
Cooper has scored seven goals in the last seven games, including back-to-back two-goal games against the Galaxy and Toronto - both wins for FCD. Ten of Cooper's 13 goals this season have either tied or given Dallas a lead in games, and the other three goals have increased the team's lead. Dallas is now 18-1-6 all-time when Cooper scores a goal. He also leads MLS in shots, shots on goal and is tied for the lead with four game-winning goals.
"It has been an exciting couple weeks," Cooper said. "Being part of the all- star game was such a great honor, playing with all those great players. Then coming back home, with a big game to look forward to with the Galaxy coming to town, it was exciting. We had a sold-out stadium and [new coach] Schellas [Hyndman] got his first win, it was very exciting to be apart of that. And then to go back up to Toronto and get a great result [was great]."
With all the possible distractions caused by the transfer talk, Cooper has let his boots do the talking. His four goals in the two games since the Cardiff City and Rosenborg transfer rumors surfaced prove his mind is on the pitch.
When asked if it's his goal to play overseas, Cooper said, "I do things on a day-to-day basis. I want to make sure I'm being a good professional every day. I want to make sure I'm doing the right things, working hard every day in training and its my hope that good things will come out of that, whether its performances with FC Dallas, opportunities with the [U.S.] national team or any other good things. I have big dreams and goals but I also understand the importance of looking at things day to day. I hope if I continue to do that I can achieve some of those goals."
Answers like that should only increase Cooper's value both overseas and in MLS.
With all the talk of contracts and transfers, the Coopers are adamant that there are no hard feelings on their side and there is mutual respect between both camps.
"We just have to handle it the right way," Cooper Sr. said. "I think so far we have handled it the right way and we will continue to do that. A lot of transfers and trades in Europe get controversial and nasty, we see it every day. We are not into that. I understand the way this league is structured. They have done a ton of things right, they have earned a ton of respect around the world. You also have to look at the ways they want to do business.
"What Kenny is trying to do is what a lot of young soccer players are trying to do, whether it's here or in Europe, and that's to stick your chest out, get the American flag, wave it, stick it in the ground and say, 'We've arrived.'"
Whether MLS and FCD reward Cooper with a big contract to keep him in the States or not, it's pretty safe to say he has arrived. Now it's just about respect.