On June 23, Komla Fabrice Dogbey and Rhode Island Reds FC trailed Hartford City FC 2-0 in the first half. What followed was a hat trick, a victory and something that the forward has coveted for each of his five seasons in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL): A National Player of the Week award.
What pushed a player to the level of a hat trick is always the stuff of legend. Dogbey’s has its own story behind it.
“When we went inside the locker room [Reds Head Coach Mario Pereira] talked to us and showed us how we were a team and how we were a family,” Dogbey said. “He talked to us about how earlier in the day in the locker room we were playing with the ball and having fun and enjoying ourselves. He said to go out on the field and don’t be scared, just enjoy yourselves just the way you did before. I felt that I had to do something for my team. I just decided to give all I had.”
That performance stands as the gem of a monumental run for Dogbey and Rhode Island. He scored 10 goals over a four-game stretch with his team achieving a 3-0-1 record along the way.
Dogbey said that he was hesitant to give his all in the Hartford match due to the fact that it was the first leg of a back-to-back. He felt sluggish preparing for the next day’s match on Sunday morning. He responded with a brace in a 4-0 victory over New York Athletic Club, of course.
The forward’s streak also landed him on the Top Drawer Soccer Team of the Week and the Football Manager Team of the Week. No stranger to honors, Dogbey’s list of of accolades consists of the record for all-time goals at Rhode Island College and a Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year award in high school.
Hope High School in Providence, R.I. was when Dogbey first became aware of his scoring potential, despite it being one of the most difficult periods of his life. The Lomé, Togo native was attempting to transition to the United States from a West African country as a high school junior.
“I didn’t speak English,” Dogbey said. “I spoke French. It was hard to make friends. Soccer was actually the thing that helped me the most. People always say that soccer doesn’t have a language. I got to make friends during my soccer practices and games and they helped me with my English. I helped them with French. It was kind of hard at first but it became easy because of soccer.”
Soccer has always had a family theme for Dogbey. Not many players spend five years with an NPSL club the way he has with the Reds. There’s a reason for that.
“They treat their players like family,” Dogbey said. “If anything happens to you, they take care of you. They ask questions about how you’re doing. It’s just not about soccer. It’s about life, how your life is going, how they can help you with stuff. It’s just more than soccer. It’s like a family. Me being around them for five years shows my loyalty to them and how grateful I am to play for them.”
After finishing his collegiate career at Rhode Island College with the Anchormen, Dogbey has had his best NPSL season to date. What he hopes comes next is a playoff run, and eventually a chance to play professionally. It’s what he’s always dreamt of.
“The next step for me, I’m still playing to improve my game,” Dogbey said. “Every day I practice and even during the game, I’m looking for the next opportunity. I want something great to happen to me. You never know when the changes will come your way. I’m just still working hard, and it will hopefully happen.”
Contributor: Jeff Helfrich/NPSL.com
Photo Credit: Hayden James and Julie Lach