As the college soccer season winds to a close, one member of the class of 2017 has finished his season.
But it wasn't in college.
So instead of wrapping up a debut Big East campaign, Rogers already has a year of experience at the USL level under his belt. And from his perspective, the decision to forego college soccer was the right one for him.
“I’ve already noticed how much better and all the improvements I’ve had in a few months from playing here and learning here and developing here,” he told topdrawersoccer.com. “We train almost every day and I’m getting input and advice from professional coaches who have played overseas in Europe and won MLS Cups here. It’s an atmosphere that’s hard to match in college just because the season is shorter and there is only so much time you get playing. I think it’s hard to match that professional experience and atmosphere.”
At the start of 2017, making the jump to pro soccer wasn’t at the forefront of Rogers’ mind. While it had been a dream of his since he was 10 years old, the 6-foot-3 defender’s development started to accelerate in January. Along with spending the 2017 preseason with the Sounders first team, Rogers was able to work it out with his high school to take mornings off and start train with S2 on a regular basis a month later.
From there, he earned starts with S2 almost right off the bat. As things picked up pace on the field, Rogers signed with the USL side in June.
Now at season’s end, the decision has been justified. Rogers logged 2,250 minutes, making 25 starts and appearance in S2’s central defense. He earned a call-up to Seattle’s first team for its U.S. Open Cup match the week he signed with S2, playing 90 minutes in a 2-1 victory. Back in July, the youngster impressed enough coaches and peers around the league to be named as the No. 5 prospect Under 20 by the USL.
On the field, Rogers has seen his development accelerate as he’s learned a multitude of lessons competing against more experienced opponents.
“It’s playing against guys who’ve been in the MLS, Europe or USL,” Rogers said. “You gain little things here and there that I just didn’t ever think about. Each game I learned something new that I had to deal with or had to improve upon just because of the guys I’m playing against.
“Playing against grown men, they’re bigger and stronger. At the Academy level I’m playing against guys my age, and last season I was pretty much bigger than most of the players I was playing against. Guys in the USL, they these little ways to beat you. It’s as simple as a nudge while the ball is in the air that throw you off just enough that it’s not a foul, it’s not blatant but it does more than enough to knock you out of position…In the Academy you can make silly mistakes and not really get punished for it. You can make a bad pass and it probably won’t lead to anything. If you make a bad pass in your own half in the USL or a bad choice, I swear every time I do it it’s a goal.”
While on-the-field adjustments were numerous, Seattle’s Academy setup prepared Rogers for the demands and wrinkles of life on the road. And even though he elected not to pursue a college soccer career, he found a hybrid program and started a few credits this fall.
But his focus is on the field. Eager to continue his development and parlay that into a first team opportunity in the not-too-distant future, Rogers hopes to play in Europe one day. Born in 1999, he’ll be eligible for the U.S. U20 Men’s National Team. That’s a big focus for him, along with hopefully following the foosteps of another Sounders Academy player.
“Ever since I got called in 2016 [to the U.S. youth setup] I’ve been wanting to get called back up again and be in that system and be on the team, so that’s definitely been a goal of mine,” Rogers said. “I want to get on to the first team as soon as I can. I have really high expectations for myself, and I really want to play in Europe and I think signing at 17 and maybe working my way to the first team by 19 sets myself really well for that, kind of in the path of DeAndre Yedlin.”