In his 200 Major League Soccer matches, Kenny Cooper has played alongside some influential players.
However, upon reaching the milestone of 200 MLS appearances in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Vancouver, one stood out the most to him – the late Bobby Rhine.
Rhine played all 10 of his MLS seasons in Dallas, reaching his peak in the 2001 and 2002 seasons, when Cooper was an up-and-coming youngster in the local circuit that regularly came out to Dallas Burn matches. Once Cooper made his debut with the team in 2006, it was Rhine that took him under his wing over the next three seasons before his retirement in 2008, helping Cooper reach the level he has in MLS, ranking among the top 20 scorers in MLS history.
"Bobby was the ultimate pro and the ultimate teammate. He was great on the field and in the locker room," Cooper said. "He was always someone that I admired and respected. He was an amazing person and an amazing player and we all miss him so much. He was such a great role model for me as a young player."
Rhine passed away unexpectedly in 2011 at age 35 when he suffered a heart attack while vacationing with his family.
His influence on Cooper can be seen clearly not just on the field, but in how he lives his life. The words used to describe Rhine – genuine and kind – can easily be used to also describe Cooper.
When Cooper reached his 200th career match, he thinks first of his coaches and teammates that helped him reach that milestone.
"I feel so fortunate to have had the health to have played that many games and to have coaches that have shown the faith in me to put me in that many games and I'm very grateful to those coaches," Cooper said. "I'm living a dream to play professionally. I've always wanted to follow in my father's footsteps and some of his teammates that I had the fortune of growing up with.
"They are all players that took pride in being good professionals and good ambassadors of the game and I always admired them. I feel fortunate that I'm living out the dream that I had as a kid. To play 200 games in this league that I have so much respect for and so proud to be a part of, I'm very fortunate and grateful."
Against Vancouver, Cooper assisted on the opening goal in the match, a header by Chad Barrett in the 36th minute. Cooper has two assists to go with his three goals with Sounders FC this season, bringing his career totals to 75 goals and 18 assists.
"He's had a great career and scored a lot of goals in the league," Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. "Today he set up the goal and it seems like always at the end of the day if there is a goal scored and he's on the field, a lot of the time he's part of that. That's something that he's had over the years that he's played."
Cooper is the 97th player in MLS history to reach 200 career matches.