School, Sounders and studying: 18-year-old defender Sam Rogers highlights packed Tuesday with U.S. Open Cup win

TUKWILA, Wash. — While many of his Seattle Sounders teammates go out to celebrate their 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers on Tuesday in the fourth round of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup, new S2 signing Sam Rogers has other plans.

He has to go home and study.

Rogers is an 18-year-old senior at Ballard High School and has his last three finals on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He went to school on Tuesday and received his yearbook before starting at center back and going 90 minutes while helping Seattle advance to the Round of 16. Rogers was originally committed to Villanova on a scholarship, but he signed a professional contract with S2 on Tuesday and cemented his place in the Sounders’ system.

“I didn’t think [signing] would happen this quickly, but I’ve been working hard and pushing myself,” Rogers said. "I was a little nervous [for Tuesday’s match] because it’s a big stage, but you gotta remember to keep calm. I was playing with a bunch of my S2 teammates so we were just playing together and it was a lot more relaxing with them.”

When suiting up for the Sounders Academy, Rogers didn’t play in front of crowds anywhere close in size to the 3,937 in attendance on Tuesday. Fans chanted his name and cheered for him throughout the match. Despite the added pressure, Rogers remained composed. Goalkeeper Tyler Miller thought his young center back was strong and solid defensively and made sure not to let the moment become too big.

“Especially for Sam after just signing for the team,” Miller said. “There were a lot of emotions coming into it and he handled that like a professional player.”

The Sounders agreed to short-term loan agreements with nine S2 players on Thursday, thus making them eligible to compete in the Open Cup. The Timbers also signed short-term loans with 11 T2 players, which made Tuesday’s match a mixture of the two clubs’ USL sides and reserve first-team members.

Sounders FC midfielder Zach Mathers, who scored the game-winning goal in the 55th on a penalty kick, shouldered the responsibility of being a guy on whom some of the S2 players could lean. Mathers starred at Duke alongside Timbers forward and 2017 first round MLS SuperDraft pick Jeremy Ebobisse, and the two know each other well. Earlier in the year before the first S2 vs. T2 match, Mathers had a talk with Rogers about how to defend Mathers’ former college teammate. Mathers wanted to ensure Rogers stayed as tight as possible.

“I thought he battled well in the air with Ebobisse,” Mathers said. “I thought he did great tonight, battling for every ball, not getting shoved out of the way. I thought he did fantastic.”

Head coach Brian Schmetzer was also impressed with what he saw from Rogers. While Schmetzer was quick to point out that, like most young players, he still has plenty of room to improve his tactical positioning and other nuances that can only be learned from experience, his performance spoke for itself.

“The Portland forwards are pretty darn good,” Schmetzer said. “Those weren’t a bunch of the guys he played at Ballard High School. He was playing against pros…he held his own.”

It will be late by the time Rogers gets home and settles into his studies for the week’s final exams. But when he wakes up Wednesday and heads to Ballard High, he’ll have one incredible Tuesday to think about.

“It’s definitely up there on one of the top, best days ever,” Rogers proclaimed. “It’s a great feeling to play in front of the home crowd like this in a packed stadium. It’s a dream.”

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