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Koger to sign with Revolution
MVHS graduate made team as final pick in 2011 MLS Draft
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Alan Koger (5) plays for William & Mary in this undated photo. Koger, a 2005 graduate of Magna Vista High School, has been offered a contract by Major League Soccer's New England Revolution. The Revs selected Koger with the 54th and final pick in this year's draft. ( photo)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

By PAUL MONTANA - Bulletin Sports Writer

On Monday afternoon, the New England Revolution cut three rookies from its roster - none of them named Alan Koger.

But, his father cautioned Koger on the phone that night: "It could be your turn tomorrow morning" to get cut.

Far from it.

Koger, a 2005 Magna Vista High School graduate who went on to play soccer at William & Mary, was offered a contract by New England on Tuesday morning, and he plans to sign with the team by Thursday.

"I told him on the phone (Tuesday), "˜When I said it was your turn, I didn't realize it was your turn to be signing a contract,'" laughed Ebert Koger, Alan's father.

Alan Koger was the 54th and final pick in the MLS Draft on Jan. 13, becoming the first Henry County native to be drafted by an MLS team.

In a phone interview from his hotel in Foxborough, Mass. on Tuesday, Alan Koger said that he was offered a contract at roughly 9:40 a.m. at the team's practice facility just prior to a training session.

Koger had already seen several players emerge from the office of Michael Berns, the Revs' vice president of player personnel, with folders containing "a bunch of pieces of paper, and I said, "˜Oh, it looks like contracts,' Koger said.

Then Koger, too, got called in to speak with Berns, along with head coach Steve Nicol.

"I walked in, and (Berns) is like, "˜I just want to get to the point,'" Koger said. "He looked at (Nicol), and he looked at me, and he said, "˜Yeah, we want to offer you a contract.'

"And that was it, then we went to practice," he added with a laugh.

Koger, 23, has not yet signed the contract - a 10-month deal for the league minimum for rookies, which is $31,250 according to multiple published reports. Koger said he will sign the contract by Thursday, the same day the team travels to Atlanta for its first exhibition matches.

Like in most professional leagues, drafted MLS players have no guarantees of signing a contract - particularly when you're the last player in the draft, as Koger was.

It did help Koger that the MLS increased the allowable roster size from 24 players to 30 this season - it helped both the feasibility of making the team, and gave him a little added jolt of confidence.

It also helps when you score goals on three consecutive days.

That's exactly what Koger, a forward, did in each of three intrasquad scrimmages held in Orlando, roughly two weeks into the tryouts. The former Region IV Player of the Year scored on a left-footed shot to the far post in the first scrimmage, on a diving header in the second, and on another left-footed blast in the third.

Koger, by the way, is right-footed.

"Obviously, scoring goals is what I'm supposed to do," Koger said. "Fortunately, I was able to get some pretty nice goals, actually. I know that definitely got some looks, with my finishing ability. I was very happy with my performance."�

Koger didn't even know he would be drafted in January, shortly after he graduated from William & Mary in December. As a result, he came into the first day of tryouts both out of shape and rusty.

"Day one, I'm not gonna lie, it was rough," Koger said. "I hadn't been playing much. I went home, went snowboarding and this and that. It was rough. The speed of play was a lot quicker, and playing on the turf as well was difficult.

"But after a couple days, I adjusted. And when we went down to the grass field (in Orlando), I feel like I really showed my ability to be a holding forward and score some goals. My confidence definitely rose, but I still had no idea. ... But the Orlando trip I definitely felt like was something that would put me in a position to get a contract."�

Shortly after practice ended Tuesday, Koger began making phone calls with the news of his contract offer - to his parents, brothers and girlfriend, and to some of his guiding influences in Henry County. Like Harry Lance, who coached Koger through his youth in the Piedmont Youth Soccer League.

"I got back from lunch about 1 o'clock, and about 1:30, Alan called," Lance said. "I said, "˜Alan, what's up?' Because it was just an odd time of day for him to call.

"He goes, "˜Well coach, I've got some bad news: I'm going to be staying in Boston 'till November."�

Lance, in particular, knows what a milestone this is for Henry County.

"I told Alan, "˜You don't know how big this is for our area,'" said Lance, who is hoping to make the trip to Atlanta to watch one of the Revolution's exhibition games against the Columbus Crew and the Houston Dynamo this weekend. "A kid that came through PYSL, grew up in Henry County, went to Henry County public schools, and went on to play college soccer, and now pro.

"One thing I thought about is what this does for kids coming up through the system now, and kids who are wanting to play soccer. It's not only that he got drafted and that he made the team, it's the kind of person that Alan is. The great kid that he is is just a testament to hard work ... what it tells kids here is, anything's possible."�

Koger, who played pickup soccer at the Smith River Sports Complex as recently as last summer, agreed.

"A lot of kids out there may not have too much hope coming out of Martinsville, but it kind of gives that story, the underdog story, where you can do anything, you know? As long as you work hard and put your mind to it," he said. "So it means a lot to kind of be a role-model for some of the younger kids who are around the area."�

Although the Revolution scored just 32 goals in 30 matches last season - second-worst in the MLS - Koger recognized that he may not see much of the field as a rookie. He is vying for time with three other "true forwards," along with several attacking midfielders who could play up top, he said.

But on the other hand, he just might play. Just like when he was drafted, he just might make the team.

And as for his plans to celebrate Tuesday night? "Relax, look over the contract, and hopefully something good's on TV tonight," he said with a laugh.

After all, he couldn't celebrate too much. He's got practice this morning.


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