Pima standout Chris Cooper causes deep impact
By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ
The referee blows the whistle in Kino Stadium to signal the start of the game.
The nerves leading up to the game disappear, and Pima Community sophomore Chris Cooper’s mind is locked on getting the ball in the net.
“I’m just in the moment,” he said. “I try not to overthink anything and just trust the preparation we’ve done in training.”
Currently, Cooper is one of the leading scorers for the Aztecs, with six goals in eight games.
He attributed his early success to the tough training sessions in June.
“I’m glad the work is paying off and that I’ve been able to help my team up until this point in the season,” he said.
Last season, Cooper scored seven goals in his 18 appearances for the Aztecs.
So far, this season has proven to be favorable to Cooper. He also has racked up a total of eight assists so far.
Cooper’s youth soccer career can be traced back to Rio Rico and Nogales.
His father had played soccer and was pivotal in influencing his son to play.
Regardless of whether Cooper was playing recreational soccer for the American Youth Soccer Organization or competitive soccer for the Tucson Soccer Academy, he always could count on the support of his parents.
He always had been competitive, but it didn’t become serious for him until joining the TSA ’98 boys red.
The dedication was evident in his hourlong drive to Tucson from Nogales, three times a week for practice.
FALLING IN LINE
Commuting to soccer became easier for Cooper when he moved to Tucson the summer before his freshman year at University High School.
Cooper was already playing on an elite team for his age group and no longer had to make a long commute to practice. All that was left to deal with was tryouts for UHS soccer.
“I was nervous but more excited to play even if I made the JV team.”
The new boy in Tucson managed to make varsity in his first year.
“I’ve always had a great love for the game, but I got really serious about soccer when I started high school and started playing for TSA,” he said.
While at TSA, Cooper had the opportunity to play under PCC head coach Dave Cosgrove.
“I started coaching Chris when he was 11, so he has changed a lot,” Cosgrove said. “What I have seen in high school and at Pima is his ability to sustain his high level of play.”
Cooper always had dreamed of playing in college.
That dream became a reality on Feb. 3, 2016, when he signed a letter of intent to play for PCC.
MOVING UP THE LADDER
The transition to soccer at the collegiate level wasn’t easy.
“I needed to get used to the physicality and the faster speed of play,” Cooper said. “Another big difference was the commitment required.”
Despite the heavy demands of soccer, Cooper is set on achieving an associate of science degree from PCC. He then plans to transfer to a four-year university to study engineering.
Sophomore Julian Goana has played alongside Cooper for six years.
“He’s a good guy with a hard-working mentality and is always on top of his school work,” Goana said.
Throughout the years, Cooper rarely has strayed from the right winger position.
This position requires Cooper to have a high work rate on the field, as his position is tasked with a large amount of running, defending and attacking.
“He’s a very outstanding player and makes opportunities happen,” freshman Giovanni Ahumada said. “His dribbling ability is unbelievable. He can take anyone in this league.”
Cooper’s skills have made him a reliable force on the field.
“He is a very dependable player in our offense,” freshman Hugo Kametani said. “Cooper’s dribbling is one of the team’s weapons. I trust him.”
Cosgrove always had recognized Cooper’s abilities to impact games.
“We think he is good enough to affect the game every minute he is playing,” Cosgrove said. “He can do that by scoring, assisting goals and by defending.”
With Cooper’s skill level and high acclaim from coaches and teammates, it would seem plausible for him to be overly confident, maybe even arrogant. However, he has proved to be the ideal teammate and athlete.
“Chris is a great teammate,” Cosgrove said. “He is well liked and respected. He is very coachable and responsible.”
His humbleness is evident when he scores. Instead of having a personal celebration, he opts to celebrate with his team.
Cosgrove believes Cooper will be instrumental to the Aztec’s success this season.
“I think Chris is working very hard to have a strong impact on every game. So far Chris has been successful. If Pima is to repeat as Region I Champions, Chris will have to continue to improve and impact games.”