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Thrust Into Action, Cochran Boosts Energy FC

By CHRIS HOCKMAN -, 10/27/17, 9:45AM EDT


OKC goalkeeper has shone in lieu of Laurendi to raise club's playoff hopes

Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

OKLAHOMA CITY – Serving as back-up to club captain Cody Laurendi, OKC Energy FC goalkeeper CJ Cochran wasn't expecting to be called into duty often as the side battled down the final stretch of the USL regular season.

After Laurendi suffered a season-ending injury against Reno 1868 FC on Sept. 20 at Greater Nevada Field, though, Cochran has provided exactly what Energy FC needed to thrive. After a stellar string of performances throughout the final month of the season, Cochran came up big in his first USL Cup Playoffs appearance last Saturday night to lead OKC to a 1-0 victory in a return trip to face 1868 FC in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

After coming in cold shortly before the end of the first half in Energy FC's last visit to Reno after Laurendi suffered a serious knee injury, Cochran didn't get off to an auspicious start. He allowed two of Reno's three goals in the match as Energy FC began a trip out west with a tough defeat, failing to make a save through his 51 minutes of action.

“Last time we played there we got beat 3-0 and honestly it wasn’t even that close of a game, we got beat pretty handily,” said Cochran of the Sept. 20 contest.

Unlike other players, being a back-up goalkeeper means literally that. You're the back-up plan in case of suspension, international call-up or injury to the starter. Cochran had only made two prior starts this season for Energy FC before Laurendi's injury. That was something that Cochran had to face, and may have played a part in his poor outing against Reno, but with a strong coaching staff he could at least prepare well in case he was called upon.

“It can be difficult, mentally trying to prepare yourself to be ready for any game and any situation when you’re not the number one it’s tough to do so,” said Cochran. “But you just stay sharp in training and I’m lucky enough to share training with James Ritchie our goalkeeping coach and [fellow goalkeeper] Cody Laurendi with me day in and day out and there’s quality which makes it a bit easier to step into the starting role.”

It's that hard work in training that is now paying off for Cochran, who has helped Energy FC to five consecutive victories since that regular-season loss to Reno. A former MLS Cup-winning goalkeeper himself, OKC Head Coach Jimmy Nielsen appreciates the work that Cochran has put in, and the confidence he has given the side taking over such a vital role at such a crucial stage of the season.

“C.J. came in and stepped up tremendously and has done a great job for us," said Nielsen. "It’s not a surprise he’s doing well, we see it week in and week out, how he performs in practice and he’s practicing with high quality and has been performing in the games with high quality. It’s never easy to be thrown in there, we don’t have a second team that he can play on so the only concern we had was his timing and stuff like that. But I think overall he’s done really well for us but he’s not surprised us. We know what he stands for and he really stepped up when the opportunity was there for him.”

With Nielsen retaining such strong goalkeeping experience, having also claimed the Danish Superliga and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup during his career, he has also been able to provide Cochran with useful experience to lean on.

After a strong performance in last weekend's rematch with Reno, which saw Cochran named Man of the Match for his five-save shutout, the 26-year-old was still quick to pass on credit to his defense. Energy FC's defense was certainly strong, recording 23 tackles in the match at a 73.9% success rate and 13 interceptions to help contain what had been a record-setting in the regular season, an indicator of the confidence the side has gained in making a run at reaching the USL Cup.

“I think the whole defense gets confidence, yeah I had five saves, and some of them I needed to dive, but there weren’t any ‘worldies’ I had to pull out,” said Cochran. “It was the defense kind of limiting their chances. I just had to make a couple of saves there, but I think it gives the whole defense a reason to feel confident.”

That confidence will need to remain high throughout the week as Energy FC faces another tough postseason contest against regional rival and No. 2-seed San Antonio FC, again on the road. It is clear that for Cochran his confidence is high and is ready to spring a second straight upset.

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