First of His Name

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When opening night finally came, it felt a little strange cheering for a brand new team with players I’d never seen before. On a more specific note, I joined the crowd in applauding a little louder when the captain, Josh Rogers, was introduced. I then thought, “I wonder what position he plays.”

If you’re a newcomer to BIR, you probably haven’t read everything that’s ever been published here. That’s perfectly fine because that opening paragraph came from one of the blog’s early pieces and it must’ve seemed brand new to you. Here’s a little more:

Here was our Gerrard, our Puyol, our Lahm, and I’d never even seen him kick a ball. Looking back now, it was a truly unique experience to watch that first match with no expectations, no prior knowledge of the players’ styles, strengths, weaknesses, or even where they would line up. My familiarity and opinions of them were built not by segments on ESPN or sports-talk radio, but solely by their play on the field.

On that night in May of 2012, none of the thousand-odd people in the stadium –not the supporters, not the players, not the coaches, not even the owners – had any idea of what to expect.

Sitting here, three years in the future, it’s clear that City owes much of its success to a number of people who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. When it comes to on-field results, no one player has made more of an impact than Josh Rogers. Yes, he retires as the club’s career leader in games and minutes played, but more importantly, it’s his style that’s helped shape the team’s identity over its first four seasons.

He was never the biggest or fastest player on the field, but his scrappiness and determination reflected the attitudes of the club and the city it represents.

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He was also loud – very, very loud – and at times during games it seemed as though he wasn’t only in control of his own body, but those of several of his nearest teammates, as if they had brain implants and he had the control pad tucked away in his pocket or his sock.

Early this season, after a couple of rough preseason friendlies, I wrote that his role would probably be reduced due to the availability of some younger, taller, more athletic options at centerback. This turned out to be completely wrong. He played himself into shape, provided the leadership and communication that was visibly lacking whenever he was absent, and by the end of the season had regained his status as an automatic starter (if indeed he had ever really lost it).

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At the end, there was none of the fairytale/storybook/ride off into the sunset-type stuff. Having your career end in a mostly-empty stadium in Wisconsin is no way for anyone to go, but in soccer, as in life, few things work out according to your plans. When City finally wins its first Midwest Trophy, a different person wearing the armband will be the one to hoist it. Josh Rogers has something else, though, something that is exceedingly rare in modern sports. He has the experience of bringing a club into existence. He built something to stand the test of time.

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Photo #1 by Dion Degennaro

Photo #2 and Video by Michael Kitchen


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