KENYA BROWN - Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Poland is a country where one may not find many American soccer players plying their trade, but it is where Alex Rodier has landed as he looks to establish his professional career.
The New Jersey native, who is starting his second season with LKS Lomza in Poland's lower league, is looking to build on his performance from last season and hopefully make his move up the professional ranks. He is also determined to get a call up to the United States national team in the future.
Like many American players who have made the move from college soccer to the professional ranks, Rodier found the transition difficult in the beginning. However, after adjusting to his environment and understanding the type of system his team plays, he has found himself being one of the most important players in the team.
"The style of play in Europe, as opposed to the collegiate or PDL level, is much more strategic, and possession oriented," Rodier told Yanks Abroad. "It was especially difficult adapting to the different style of play because when I first got here, I did not know any Polish and it was tough to understand a lot of what my coach wanted me to do. But with hard work and a good attitude I was not only able to achieve my dream of becoming a professional athlete, but I am doing quite well for myself at the moment."
Prior to making the move to Poland, Rodier spent time at Dominica College where he was an all-conference first team selection in 2010. He also spent time with the Westchester Flames in the Premier Development League and Olympia Stanford FC in Connecticut.
According to the 23-year-old, his experience in the amateur ranks was time well spent as it opened doors for him to make the move abroad.
"I was able to play against some good competition, while working to get better every day. Playing with the Westchester Flames allowed me to play with and against some of the best young prospects in the country, a lot of who are now professionals now. My time with Olympia Stamford SC was very well spent because I was able to get good looks from some foreign scouts, which is how I gained the opportunity to try out over here in Poland," he said.
It was at Olympia where Rodier would get noticed by several teams and get help from the team's owner in his pursuit of signing his first professional contract.
"George Karwowski has many connections in Europe, especially Poland. Therefore, he was able to get me the opportunity for some looks by some of the clubs over here in Poland, which eventually lead to training with LKS Lomza and my first professional contract," said Rodier.
With contract in hand, Rodier headed to the northeast of Poland in hopes of helping Lomza progress in the league.
After signing with Lomza, Rodier would not be given much time to get adjusted to his new teammates or surroundings as he found himself immediately in games. His first game in Poland's III Liga was against Motor Lubawa in a substitute role.
According to the forward, stepping on the field for his first professional game felt like a great accomplishment for him.
"It was an unbelievable feeling stepping on the field that first time. I felt a sense of accomplishment, but I knew that there was much more work to be done, and this was only the beginning," he said. "Everything I had worked for up until this moment now had meaning. This gave me, and continues to give me motivation to work harder, get better, and stay more concentrated on the task at hand in order to become the best soccer player that I can possibly become."
Rodier made another substitute appearance for the team before everything started to change in the favor of the American.
"My coach came up to me, after two weeks of me working hard every practice to try and get into that starting line-up, and he said (trying his best to speak English) ‘Tomorrow, you play from the beginning.' This gave me a great deal of confidence going into that first game that I started, and I ended up scoring my first goal as a professional," he said.
Having earned the confidence of the coach in earning a place in the starting lineup, it was time for Rodier to return the favor by doing what he was to the team to do - score goals.
That first goal would come against Tur Bielsk Podlask in a 3-0 win for the team in March. According to Rodier, it was a "scrappy" goal on a "less-than-average" field.
"I was having a great game so far. Any attack we had all game had something to do with me, but I had no goal to show for it so far," said Rodier. "Then on a corner kick, I got a head to it and the goalie made a great save, the ball was bouncing around in the area and no one from their team could clear in effectively. I wanted to score so badly, so I put my body on the line, dove through a few players and poked the ball in the back of the net. Then I picked myself up and ran to the corner where my whole team came to congratulate me. It may have been an ugly goal, but it gave me even more confidence going into the rest of the season."
That first goal certainly did boost Rodier's confidence as he went on to score a total of nine for the season.
While Rodier's primary focus is on playing well and helping Lomza move up the ranks in the Polish leagues, he has taken the time to explore the city and get to know the fans. He only has good things to say about both.
"Life is great here. The food is good, the people are nice, and the women are beautiful. I have a great relationship with the fans. People are always coming up to me around town shaking my hand, pointing and saying ‘LKS,' asking for autographs for their kids. I am somewhat of a local celebrity. It is a much simpler way of living than in the United States because the country is much less developed, but people here are very welcoming, friendly, and a lot of fun to be around," said Rodier.
While Rodier is currently playing in Poland's lower league, he has set some lofty goals for himself as he looks to take his professional career as far as he can. One of those goals is to make on to the U. S. national team.
"The ultimate goal I have for myself is to play for the U.S. men's national team. It may be a stretch, but I truly believe that I have the ability to play at this level," he said. "In order to achieve this goal I must move up to the higher ranks of professional soccer. I will do this by creating short term goals for myself, season to season, match to match, day to day. It is important to have goals to have something to work toward, something to motivate you, something to look back at one day and say "I did everything within my power to achieve my dream".