CARSON, Calif. – Greg Cochrane is epitomized on the soccer field through his tireless energy that provides a spark for teammates on both sides of the ball.
During the preseason, the LA Galaxy’s 38th overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft has impressed his coaches and teammates with his constant hustle down the left flank.
But when Cochrane attended the University of Louisville, he was well-known as much for his work on the field as for his long, flowing locks. Initially, Cochrane held back on cutting his hair to save a little money, but soon the mane became a symbol of a sprightly midfielder who started all 44 games during his two years at Louisville.
As Cochrane approached the beginning of his professional career, he knew that his hair had to go, but he didn’t wish to simply chop it off. Instead, he donated his hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces for needy children in the United States and Canada who are suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
“It was on my bucket list to donate hair or do something to help someone else because it’s a little thing that I can do to help someone else,” Cochrane told LAGalaxy.com. “All I had to do is grow my hair out 10 inches. There are kids out there with cancer who don’t have hair so I was happy to give mine up to give to them.”
After a successful two-year stint at Louisville and many positive reviews during the MLS Combine, Cochrane decided to shed his mop for a more stream-lined look one day before the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. But even though he was cutting his hair for a good cause, it was an emotional moment for the 22-year-old.
“It was the day after the combine, before the draft. I woke up and said, I’m cutting it today,” said Cochrane with a smile. “I went to a salon because they said that they’ve dealt with it before and they ship it off [to Locks of Love]. So they put a million pony tails in my hair and when I first felt the clip [of the scissors] and my hair was off, I thought ‘there’s no turning back now.’
“It was emotional because once it grows, you get attached to it, but I was super happy to do it and cross it off the bucket list.”
When the clean-cut Cochrane arrived at Galaxy preseason camp in January, he let his feet rather than his hair do the talking. Cochrane’s industrious play and tireless work ethic along the left flank earned him appearances in all seven Galaxy preseason games where he finished the docket with one goal and three assists.
Although the jump from the college ranks to MLS is a dramatic one, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena believes that he could make an impact for the club in 2013.
“He’s a good young player and probably has more experience as a left back than as a left midfielder so we’ve been surprised with how he’s progressed at the position,” said Arena. “He’s a very headsy player and he doesn’t have the greatest physical qualities in terms of size and speed, but he runs pretty well and he’s technically very solid and pretty sharp up stairs. So when you put all that together, the chances of being a good player are there. He’s shown each and every week for us and had an impressive preseason.”
Cochrane is quick to agree with Arena’s assessment, admitting that with each passing day, he feels more confident among the professionals.
“I’m progressing little by little each day so I take it a day at a time,” said Cochrane. “I’ve been more composed with the ball. Obviously, MLS is a step up from college and in the first few days, you might be a little bit more nervous, but I try to take a deep breath and relax and keep the ball moving. I try to stay one step ahead of the play so I know what to do when I get the ball.”
On the field, it appears that the plucky rookie has the talents to be successful in the pro ranks, but one question remains: is Cochrane’s long hair ever coming back?
“I’m not really sure yet. I do like having longer hair because it’s my thing,” said Cochrane. “But I think I might have shorter hair for a little bit because I don’t want to go through that awkward in between stage that all guys with long hair know about. So I have to muster up the courage to get past that stage again but eventually I’ll probably grow it back out again.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com