PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Timbers forward Kenny Cooper is training with a heavy heart this week as he mourns the death of former FC Dallas teammate Bobby Rhine.
Cooper considered Rhine, a 10-year MLS veteran who died Monday of an apparent heart attack while vacationing with his family in Florida, one of his mentors during the early years of his professional career.
“It was just beyond terrible to hear,” said Cooper, who received a call from a former Dallas teammate delivering the tragic news before Portland’s Tuesday training session. “Bobby is so loved. I still just can’t believe the news I heard yesterday morning. It just doesn’t feel real.”
Cooper and Rhine played together in Dallas for three seasons before Rhine retired in 2008.
Cooper’s first MLS season was with Dallas in 2006, the last year Rhine served as a regular starter for the team. That year, Cooper scored 11 goals and was named the team’s MVP.
Rhine played a total of 212 matches for Dallas, logging more than 12,000 minutes and scoring 23 goals over a decade of service. His 34 career assists rank fourth-most in club history.
But it wasn’t the stats that made Rhine a hero to the fans and an inspiration to his teammates. Cooper said it was Rhine’s leadership that stood out.
“Bobby was such a great professional and such a great example for me and all the other players in Dallas,” Cooper said. “He was such a great role model. He was incredibly competitive and hard working and just a great leader on the team.”
After his retirement, Rhine moved to the Dallas front office as the team’s play-by-play announcer and served as manager of community development. Cooper said Rhine’s passion for the game and for his club was unmatched.
“He was genuinely real, and it wasn’t just sometimes,” Cooper said. “Everyday he’s that person, a genuinely kind person.”
Cooper spent the last couple of days reminiscing with former teammates and going through old photos from his days in Dallas. He said he last spoke with Rhine when the Timbers played in Dallas on June 25.
“He’s someone I aspire to be like,” he said. “He’s such a class act. There are so many memories. He was such a fun person to be around, just a great guy. He’ll be so sorely missed. He meant so much to FC Dallas. ... It’s just so sad.”