We’ve all seen the television advertisement, courtesy of the NCAA, in which the college athletes talk about “going professional in something other than sports.” That is fine and understandable. Kids should be allowed to dream, but there is always a place for the reality check, whether it be in the playing arena or as a precautionary story from the past. The odds of making it to the pros, we are told, are long.
But when your “hometown boy” gets there – and on top of that stays there and succeeds – well, that is something a bit special. Eddie Robinson from Greensboro, the University of North Carolina and Major League Soccer is being inducted into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame and a lot of us feel that somewhere along the way we were there for the ride. And a great ride it has been.
The nature of sports success oftentimes lends itself to looking at beginnings, and for Eddie, it was the youth leagues in Guilford County. The foundation was the 1978 Greensboro Soccer Club and he played the game well enough to be recognized by the Greensboro Youth Soccer Hall of Fame in 2009. At Page High School he was an outstanding defensive player, garnering All-State, All-South and ultimately NSCAA All-America honors (1995).
At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, under the guidance of Coach Elmar Bolowich (NC Soccer HOF, 2012), Robinson became a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection. His career statistics as a defender included four goals and 16 points in 73 games, but perhaps the biggest highlight was being a member of the ACC Tournament Champions in 2000.
Eddie Robinson was the 20th overall selection by the San Jose Earthquakes in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft and his accomplishments were numerous in 11 years, all with the same franchise. He debuted on April 21, 2001 and a season later scored the first goal of his professional career. The club would win MLS Cup titles in 2001 and 2003 and a Supporters Shield (best season record) in 2005. That 2005 season would also prove to be Eddie’s most prolific, as he played in a career-high 29 games and 2450 minutes while anchoring the league’s top defense.
The move by the organization to Houston, where they were renamed the Dynamo, would prove to be most fruitful for Eddie. He became a fixture on the team’s back line and endeared himself to the fans. Robinson would be named to the MLS All-Star team in 2006 and to the league’s Best XI squad in 2007, all while the Dynamo were winning two MLS Cups. Injuries would affect his 2009 season, but he bounced back in 2010 to start 19 of 30 league games.
It was during the 2008 season, however, when a most significant moment occurred. On January 19, Robinson earned his first and only international cap for the U.S. Men’s National Team in a friendly against Sweden. He also scored a goal in that 2-0 win, making him one of the few U.S. players to score in their international debut.
Eddie retired as an active player on January 11, 2012 and, along with his wife Kim and daughters Avery and Reese, has continued to make Houston home. The past twelve months have been very busy ones as he has been working with the Dynamo Academy, serving as a TV and radio commentator and participating with Dynamo Charities as a service to the community. He is also head coach for the club’s U-16 squad.
Houston is fortunate to have Eddie Robinson, but for one night Greensboro and North Carolina welcome back a favorite soccer son. The North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame recognizes an athlete who truly reached the top.