Houston Dynamo hope center back AJ Cochran can be team's next Eddie Robinson
No player in Houston Dynamo history embodies the team's reputation for toughness more than Eddie Robinson. The four-time MLS champion was the epitome of tough, physical and yes, sometimes nasty, play.
When Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear saw AJ Cochran exhibiting those same traits at the MLS Combine, he thought of his former center back. That stuck with him when he selected Wisconsin alum Cochran with the 16th pick in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.
“Sometimes he did look a little like Eddie, which was kind of funny for us,” Kinnear told reporters. “Every time he did something we’d say, ‘OK, Eddie.’ He’s very, very good in the air and is very physical. His timing in the air and the way he attacks the ball in the air is what stands out for us.”
Will Cochran turn out to be the next Robinson? Certainly, it's a tough act to follow. But the defender showed the same traits during his time at the University of Wisconsin and those can help him fit in with the Dynamo.
That play made him a Generation adidas signing, which didn't hurt when it came time for Houston to make their selection.
Getting a young talent who has room to grow that also brings cap relief is a win-win for the Dynamo. In fact, that was what the team went into the draft hoping for. Picking at No. 16 made the prospect of finding such a player a bit of a stretch.
However, the Dynamo have pulled off picking Generation adidas players outside the top 10 three times in the last four years – they have picked four total in that time.
“I don’t know, I think it's coincidence, to be honest, but it’s tough to explain,” Dynamo president Chris Canetti told MLSsoccer.com. “We definitely wanted to get a GA player. It means we’re not only getting a good player, but good value against our salary cap.”
Added Kinnear: “I think the Generation adidas guys are valuable to the teams that have been together a while and have a good roster. That’s always attractive when players fall and it makes you look a little bit stronger.”
While Cochran added that cap help and physical play to the backline, Houston made a move to add similar traits up top, selecting target striker Mark Sherrod out of the University of Memphis in the second round.
“He played lone forward the entire time [at the MLS Combine] by himself and he never gave up on stuff,” Kinnear said. “We talked and we talked and he showed the same skills every game.”
Both players will have to earn their spot on a veteran roster. But with physicality and strength on their side, it seems they have a good chance to fit in.
“The coaches were very pleased with their selections today,” Canetti said. “We feel like we addressed two needs and got some of the best talent on the board when we had an opportunity to select.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.