PHOTO COURTESY of Robert Mora/LA Galaxy
Council Rock South High School graduate Greg Cochrane recently was drafted by Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy.
By Mike Gibson
For the Wire
When Justin Pugh was waiting to be drafted by the NFL’s New York Giants a couple of weeks ago, fellow Council Rock South High School grad Greg Cochrane could relate.
A few months earlier, Cochrane, like Pugh, was home in Holland as he was waiting to be drafted by a professional sports team and, like Pugh, was also watching on TV.
Cochrane had to wait a little later to get drafted by Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, the 38th overall pick in the second round, while Pugh went №16 in Round One.
Both the New York Giants and LA Galaxy are storied franchises in their respective leagues.
The similarities end there.
The NFL draft was live on two networks, ESPN and NFL. Major League Soccer’s draft worked its way onto ESPN3 and only the first two rounds were live.
And maybe the ratings for one were higher than the other.
Still, the excitement was the same for Cochrane, who makes his Homecoming today (May 15, 4:30 p.m. at PPL Park) when the Galaxy travel to the Philadelphia Union.
“I know Justin and talked to him before the NFL draft,” Cochrane said. “It was cool to see him drafted. I was in a couple of classes with him in high school.
“As far as for me, it was the same type of situation, waiting at home with my parents, my brother and friends, and it was a little frustrating waiting until the 38th pick, but it was rewarding and I felt a lot of the same excitement I guess he felt.”
While Pugh’s draft was in April, Cochrane’s was in January and while Pugh has to wait to September to play in a “real” game, Cochrane has already played and started in several real games for a storied MLS franchise.
He made his first appearance in an April 17 game at FC Dallas, subbing for the injured Todd Dunivant at left halfback.
Thanks in part to Dunivant’s injury, Cochrane started the three of the first four professional games in which he played.
“I think he has played well,” head coach Bruce Arena said. “He’s shown and does a pretty solid job defensively. When we drafted him, we were pretty confident he could hold his own when called upon and he certainly has done that.”
For Cochrane, playing for the legendary Arena and alongside Landon Donovan has been an eye-opening experience.
“Bruce Arena has been great and the whole coaching staff has been great,” he said. “Obviously, winning MLS Cups and being the coach of the (U.S.) National team, he brings instant credibility.”
Donovan might be the most recognizable player in the game.
“Landon, well, he’s just the face of U.S. soccer,” Cochrane said. “You can learn so much from him, just watching him. He’s cool. He’ll say, ‘Hey, do this, do that’ and that’s a good way to learn.”
Learning has been something Cochrane has been doing all of his life and it’s helped his versatility in that he can play both the left back and the left-midfield positions.
His father, Bob, played at North Carolina State and put “a soccer ball in my hands” as a 4-year-old.
After graduated from Council Rock South, Cochrane made his way to Blacksburg, Va., playing for Virginia Tech before deciding to transfer to Louisville. With the Cardinals, Cochrane helped them to a top-10 ranking for his junior and senior years and the Elite 8 both years in the NCAA Tournament. His team reached the Final Four in his junior season.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it back to the Final Four,” Cochrane said.
His upbringing through the club ranks and high school soccer gave him a good foundation, he said. He was a four-year starter and captain and MVP at Council Rock South his senior year.
“High school soccer was fun, but FC Delco was really where I developed as a player,” he said. “High school season is such a short season, a couple of months, but club soccer is so many more games, from November until August and you are traveling all over the country.
“That’s where the good players really get developed. That’s just the way the system is set up.”
Now he’s getting paid for all that hard work.
“I had no idea the LA Galaxy was interested in me until I heard my name called,” he said. “At the combine, I met with a lot of teams, not the Galaxy, but obviously I’m extremely excited and happy to be here.”
Today, he will feel the same way being back home.
“Even when I was a little kid, I always said I was going to be a professional soccer player when I grow up,” Cochrane said.
Now all grown up, he is and nearby if anyone wants to make the short trip to see him play today.