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It’s like a home game

Revolution’s Cochrane has roots in Portland

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / September 15, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - Revolution defender Ryan Cochrane never really wanted to play soccer anywhere but in his hometown. But Cochrane’s career seems to keep taking him farther from Portland, Ore.

When Cochrane was growing up, he hoped to compete collegiately at Portland University. But, he said, the Pilots did not recruit him, so Cochrane went to Santa Clara.

After three years there, Cochrane signed a Project 40 contract with Major League Soccer and was assigned to the San Jose Earthquakes. Cochrane shuttled between San Jose and Houston - where he won the MLS Cup in 2006 and ’07 - before moving to New England this year.

But Cochrane finally gets a chance to return home when the Revolution meet the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field tomorrow night.

“It’s going to be really exciting for me,’’ Cochrane said after practice this week. “It wasn’t Jeld-Wen when I was growing up. It was Civic Stadium and my club team used to train there on Wednesdays.’’

Cochrane’s ties are strong to earlier versions of the Timbers. His youth team coach was John Bain, the all-time leading scorer for the Timbers during their North American Soccer League days. That team folded in 1983, the year of Cochrane’s birth, but many of the players remained in Portland, maintaining interest in soccer by coaching and also providing continuity when the Timbers were revived as a United Soccer Leagues team.

“I grew up around Bernie Fagan, Clive Charles, and those guys,’’ Cochrane said of former Timbers. “[Portland] has always been a really good soccer city. Even when they were in the USL, the Timbers Army [supporters group] was great. The fan base is incredible, so I’m sure it’s going to be a raucous crowd.’’

The Timbers have been one of MLS’s success stories this season, drawing capacity crowds of 18,000-plus and contending for a playoff position. Part of the reason for the organization’s success is the combination of the location of the stadium, in the downtown area, and the venue’s tradition - the 1977 NASL final, Pele’s last official game, was played at Civic Stadium. The stadium was built in 1926 and has been revamped several times.

“I always envisioned one day going back if the Timbers ever came into MLS,’’ Cochrane said. “I thought about going back and finishing off my career there. But it’s not working out that way, so I’m excited to go up there and kind of give it to them a little bit.

“It kind of feels like I’m playing against a former team. It’s going to feel like playing against San Jose or Houston. I have a lot of ties with the guys on the team and [coach] John Spencer, as well. In a lot of ways, it’s personal for me.’’

Cochrane has been alternating with Franco Coria in a central defender role next to A.J. Soares this season. Cochrane also has contributed to the Revolution’s improved attacking ability. Last month, he scored a fourth-minute goal in a 1-1 tie with Houston, and last week he flicked on a corner kick for Rajko Lekic to finish in a 2-0 victory over FC Dallas, a result that snapped a seven-game winless streak for the Revolution.

And the Revolution defense will likely be tested by Portland forwards Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza.

“They have some guys who can run, they are an athletic team, definitely,’’ Cochrane said. “We’ve got to be on our toes in the back there and really try and not let the crowd be a factor in the game.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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