The Kitsap Pumas, the defending Western Regional champions of the highly competitive Premier Development League, signed goalkeeper Austin Rogers this week.
Rogers was born in Portland and grew up playing for Eastside United, one of the top youth programs in the region. While playing for Eastside United, Rogers’ outstanding play in goal earned him a spot on the Olympic Development Program Region IV side.
According to the United States Youth Soccer website, ODP elects “state association coaches, who are recognized for their ability to identify and train players with superior skills, to form a team from the best youth talent at each age group.” Players are evaluated based upon their technique, knowledge of the game, fitness, athletic ability and attitude.
Due to the recognition Rogers received from his play at the club and ODP level, he soon found himself being called up to train with the Portland Timbers’ first team and subsequently their U-23 team that competes in the same division as the Pumas in the PDL.
Although this was an incredible experience for a sixteen year old, it was something all too familiar for his family.
“My dad, Glen Rogers, played professionally for six years for teams such as the Cascade Surge (USL) and the Portland Timbers (MLS)” said Rogers. “My older brother also played, so growing up soccer was always a large part of my life and some of my best memories as a kid are kicking the ball around in my backyard with my family.”
However, Rogers could have never dreamt how far those seemingly ordinary family memories in the backyard would ultimately take him. Following his experience training in the top professional league in America, Rogers traveled to Luxembourg to train with a first division side by the name of FC Wiltz 71.
“I got to train with a lot of great players who really tested my physical and mental ability” Rogers said. “It was amazing to be immersed in the European system and being only seventeen years old it really served as an eye opening experience for me. I really matured and grew up as both a person and player when I went over there.”
Rogers’ dedication to achieving his goal continued to pay off when he was offered a two-week trial to play for PAOK of the Greek Super-league. After learning he would be soon headed halfway across the world to pursue his dream in Greece, Rogers wasted no time in enlisting the help of the renown Puma staff.
“I played for the Kitsap indoor team a few years ago and growing up in Portland I always heard about the top level of talent their pro team attracts every year,” Rogers said. “I knew that if I could train with them during their preseason last year then that would be great preparation for my trial in Greece. Luckily the Puma’s staff was eager to help me out and during my time there I really learned a lot from the talented goalies they had signed.”
However after completing preseason with PAOK, Rogers was forced to look for a new team based upon issues with his visa.
“It was very difficult to be so close to accomplishing your lifelong goals and having something as trivial as a visa prevent you from achieving it,” Rogers said. “But I decided I just had to keep moving forward to whatever opportunity presented itself. My dad knows what it’s like to try and make it as a professional player and he always taught me that when one door closes another opens. I tried to embrace that ideology and in turn it truly was a blessing because I got even more experience with even more top teams.”
After the entire season was said and done, Rogers started six games for three different third division teams in Greece, in which he had an overall record of 4-1-1 with an impressive 0.50 Goals Against Average.
Following his first professional season, Rogers found himself contemplating the next move he could make that would give him the best opportunity to grow as a player at this point in his young career.
“It took a lot of thought, but once I talked to Cammy it was really a no-brainer. I really enjoyed getting to work with the entire Puma’s coaching staff last year. The coaches always ran practice really well and the club has always had success in both the league and helping push players on to play in higher divisions.”
Head Coach Cameron McDonald is just as thrilled to add another talented and experienced goalkeeper to his roster. “Austin took the non-traditional route, by American standards, to professional soccer. It’s something I’m more accustomed to, having younger professional goalkeepers working alongside more experienced players. He’s proven already in the time I’ve worked with him that he will be a great addition to the squad.”
Rogers continued, “I couldn’t be happier to be heading back to Bremerton. I think that our goalies will really push each other to get better every day and hopefully we can set the tone for the type of healthy competition that will be needed at every position if we are going to be successful. I am really looking forward to the challenge ahead of me, to meeting all the new guys and hopefully making a strong run in PDL playoffs and Open Cup.”