While in Chula Vista last week during the 2018 Preseason presented by adidas, SoundersFC.com sat down with 18-year-old defender Sam Rogers. We discussed his crazy first year of professional soccer, what he expects in 2018 and what it’s like to be playing for his hometown club. Enjoy!
SFC: Describe what 2017 was like for you – from graduating high school to learning a new position and signing a pro contract?
SR: “It was pretty fast how all things went. It was a really good year in terms of development and experience, playing with S2 and getting a couple games with the First Team at Open Cup. I really enjoyed it; it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of learning and know what it takes to not just play for S2, but to make it to the First Team and play in MLS.”
SFC: What was the biggest thing you learned over the past year?
SR: “I learned a lot on how to take care of myself better. Coming from the Academy, you’re young so you don’t have to worry about muscle injuries and all that. But you must take of yourself so you can play for the whole season, which I know is important.”
SFC: You played as a defensive midfielder in the Academy, but with S2 you transitioned to center back. How has that process been for you?
SR: “It’s going well. It was definitely a big change because I played a little bit of center back my U-18 year, but there are a lot of learning points and mistakes to learn from. Overall, I think I am getting better and developing. I want to keep getting better and faster and get to the [First Team] as fast as I possibly can to make a difference.”
SFC: Did you feel like your professional development was rushed last year, or were you at peace with it knowing it’s what you’ve been striving towards?
SR: “I have always prepared for it, I just didn’t think it would be happening last year. Here I am now, one year later, already with a year of experience under my belt. It’s been really good knowing it’s been a year and there’s a lot more years to come. To take last year’s experience, and now coming into preseason this year, there are things now that will help me. It’s also been a year in the professional system, so I know what they want out of me and what I have to do to make that happen.”
SFC: What’s your experience been like with the U.S. national team at the youth level?
SR:“I went into [U.S.] camp when I was 16, so I haven’t been since. I want to get back there, so I got to get better here and show that I deserve to be there and make a difference. I will keep working and do what I can to get back there as soon as possible.”
SR: “It’s great because Chad is a three-time MLS Defender of the Year – he’s played on the national team. He’s exactly the kind of defender you want to be looking at. To be able to play with him and train with him is just so helpful. He gives me advice and tips when we’re playing and off the field. And Román is, obviously, going to the World Cup. He’s been a big, big part of this team, and he’s very good. Playing with him and watching him up close has been so helpful for my own development.”
SFC: You’re a Seattle guy – what’s it been like for you to grow up around this club?
SR: “That’s one really cool thing to think about because I remember the first year, thinking ‘I want to play for them one day’ like every kid thinks. To see that it’s happening is super cool and I am proud of myself, but there is still a long way to go. To see how the city has grown [around the club] since then is unbelievable. A nine-year spell and the team is one of the best in the league, if not the best. To see how much it has grown in the city and the community, and from a national standpoint, has been incredible.”
SFC: Did you go to any matches as a fan in the early years?
SR: “I went to a few games in the first year at CenturyLink, or I guess it was Qwest back then. I just remember watching, ‘I want to play there one day,’ and then I got to ball boy a bunch of games when I was a U-14 Academy player, and just being right there on the field with them was a great thing to see. It has always stuck with me because I wanted to be there, having ball kids watching me.”
SFC: What’s your goal for 2018?
SR: “I want to sign with the First Team this year if I can. Do whatever it takes to get there. If it doesn’t happen, I want to do very well with S2 and start as many games as I can, keep clean sheets. Do whatever it takes to get here full-time.”
SFC: Anything else you want to add on your experience with the club so far?
SR: “All of the guys on this team are great. They are really nice, really kind. They take you under their wing, they want you to get better to help the team. They all want to win, which is something that’s nice. They all love winning; they want to win a Cup. The coaching staff is unbelievable. They have so much experience and they are always there for you. They can be hard, but they aren’t saying stuff or doing stuff to make you feel bad about yourself. They are saying stuff because they know you are worth it to them. It’s nice to have that, too, not to have coaches who are bagging on you all the time – they can be stern with you, but they have it in their best interest. They care about you, which is nice for the Academy kids, too, because they are 15, 16, 17 and it can be overwhelming, but it’s a great atmosphere. The city is also a great atmosphere for the club, and the club does a lot for the city, too. It’s a great situation to be in; it’s a great city for soccer.”