Park Ridge, Illinois is a northern suburb of Chicago with a population of over 37,000 residents. The city was nicknamed “Brickton” because of the clay-deposited soil that it sits on, which allowed it to become a brick-making hub in its early days.
Clay is formed into something much stronger, and Bradley soccer hopes to do the same with its freshman, who are its clay for a strong future.
“We’re happy with the development,” Bradley head coach Jim DeRose said. “We’re the youngest team in the NCAA by most measurable standards, so I guess the good thing is that the freshmen are all learning the process together.”
One freshman who has already begun to come into form is Park Ridge native Michael Rogalski. The young defender has already seen the improvements in his game this year, thanks in part by the trust the freshman has gained from his coach, resulting in more time on the field.
“He loves the game,” DeRose said. “Great players embrace every part [of the sport]. They embrace the training sessions, the video sessions, the tactical conversations and they are competitive as well; and that’s him. He’s got an incredible desire to want to learn.”
Entry into Sockers FC
Soccer has been Rogalski’s passion for a while. His dad, a big soccer fan himself, passed the sport down to him at a very young age.
Despite his age, it soon became rather obvious that soccer was something Rogalski had more than a knack for.
“When I was about eight years old, I joined Sockers FC and started out with their C team,” Rogalski said. “When I reached age ten, I got to the top team and was at that level ever since.”
Sockers FC, a football club that centralizes itself around Chicago, is one of the nation’s best when it comes to youth club soccer. With a plethora of MLS and national team players that have come out of the club, it was a prestigious group that Rogalski got to be a part of from an early age.
Soon enough, Rogalski moved on to high school, but instead of playing for his school, Maine South, he continued his journey with the club.
The Sockers standout would help his team to an Iber Cup victory in Spain in 2017, and later added to the club’s accolades when they claimed the U.S. youth soccer national title that same year.
“It was kind of humbling, to be quite frank, because going into [the season] we didn’t know where our team stood and it was kind of a good point to lift our team into getting better,” Rogalski said.
The success that Sockers FC had helped influence and strengthen Rogalski’s love for the game. The youth club was exactly what he needed to be recognized and developed before taking that next step.
While Rogalski is locked in on the Braves today, it was until only recently that he decided to play for them.
“Because of COVID, I wasn’t able to have the same recruiting process as other people, so I thought the best decision would be to take a gap year,” Rogalski said.
When the NCAA recruiting pause eased up in June of this year, Rogalski’s club was visited by Bradley soccer assistant coach Tim Regan.
“After talking to Coach Regan, I figured out that Bradley was the perfect fit and opportunity to get better, as well as develop as a young man,” Rogalski said.
Now, through the first nine games of the season, Rogalski has gotten more than a taste of Bradley soccer and describes the season so far as “a grind.”
His average of over 85 minutes per game is one of the highest on the team, and earning a spot in the starting lineup is what motivates him to keep being molded into a better defender and overall player.
“My passion keeps on getting bigger and bigger for the game as well as [my] motivation to play,” Rogalski said. “[Playing soccer] is definitely something I look forward to.”
Rogalski has been around the game of soccer for a while, and just like his fellow young teammates, he still sees ways in which he can improve. For him, the clay has been molded and shaped, now it’s time for the finishing touches – ones that are improved on each game.