Senior Brian Rogers' last two seasons have been marred by injuries, but that didn't stop the Vancouver Whitecaps from selecting him in Tuesday's MLS supplemental draft.
Brian Rogers' job search is officially over.
The former Harvard men's soccer forward, who graduated a semester early in the fall in anticipation of going pro, will be playing professional soccer after he was drafted in the second round as the 29th overall pick of the MLS Supplemental Draft on Tuesday by the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
“I’m just really excited that Vancouver has decided to give me an opportunity to continue playing for at least the time being,” Rogers said.
Rogers’ climb to the MLS will be an uphill one. Of the four Ivy League players selected in the Supplemental Draft last season, three were cut within a year. If he makes the team, the forward will join Andre Akpan ’10 (Colorado Rapids) and Mike Fucito ’09 (San Jose Earthquakes) in the league.
“I wasn’t really expecting [to be drafted],” he said. “I hadn’t really thought about it because of my not having played that much over the last few years, so I had been making other plans to play overseas. [But] this is a great opportunity.”
His former coach, Carl Junot, said he had talked to the Whitecaps’ coaching staff about Rogers’ potential.
“I think he’s a player that can play at that level,” Junot said. “In the [MLS] Brian is a target forward.... His ability to fit in with what they are doing still needs to be proven, but athletically, he’s there.”
Rogers is hoping he will be able to establish himself in the league after an up-and-down career at Harvard that began with a standout rookie campaign but was littered with injury and team struggles from then on.
As a freshman in 2009, the forward won Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors after ranking second on the Crimson with 18 points and six goals. Those numbers established him as a legitimate number two option alongside Akpan, and together the pair helped lead Harvard to the Sweet 16 and a Top 10 ranking.
“Andre kind of took me under my wing my freshman year, and I’ve kept in good touch with him even after he graduated,” Rogers said. “He sent a ‘congratulations’ to me so I’m sure I’ll speak with him later today or tomorrow to get some advice about what to expect as I go into preseason games.”
Rogers’ sophomore season began on a similar high when he scored the game-winning goal in the 80th minute to lead the No. 10 Crimson to a win over No. 13 Stanford in front of a sold-out home crowd in Harvard’s season opener. The forward displayed a flair for the dramatic again later in the month when he scored a game-tying goal in the 90th minute against Stony Brook, and he finished with five scores on the season.
But the final two years of Rogers’ career were dominated by injury, as he played in just 19 total games and scored only three goals. With Rogers as the number one option, his team failed to replicate the success it had when he was playing off of Akpan and went just 5-23-6 over the last two seasons.
“He only got stronger,” Junot said. “He learned to play within a different system, learned to play against better players, learned to manage injuries, which is really important for any career. Players get injuries; it’s how they manage them that determines how their career will go.”
Despite those struggles, the Whitecaps clearly saw something they liked in the senior, who becomes the first Harvard player ever to be selected in the Supplemental Draft and the first since Akpan and Kwaku Nyamekye ’10 three years ago to be drafted by the MLS at all.
“I just got a call from one of the assistant coaches to congratulate me and tell me they’re excited for me to come in,” Rogers said. “Nothing’s guaranteed. I’ll still be competing for a roster spot.”
Princeton’s Mark Linnville was also selected in the Supplemental Draft—as the 24th overall pick by the Philadelphia Union—while Brown’s Dylan Remick was taken in the second round of the SuperDraft last week by the Sounders.
The Whitecaps open training camp next week in Burnaby, British Columbia, and play their first preseason match against Seattle on February 6.
“His work has really only just begun,” Junot said. “I always think getting drafted means very little. It’s about what you do in camp.”
—Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.