WILIAMSTOWN, MA – Matt Ratajczak, a four-year letterman, two-time captain, and All-American for Mike Russo on the Williams men's soccer back line has capitalized on his partial season with Fjölnir Football Club last summer. Fjölnir just signed Ratajczak to a one-year contract for the 2014 season.
Ratajczak arrived in Iceland about halfway through last season and upon his arrival the Fjölnir team that had been struggling went on a win streak, forcing Ratajczak to wait patiently to see if an opportunity for him to contribute would come.
"I won't put it lightly; it was very difficult to sit on the bench for as long as I did (a little over two months), one of the most difficult experiences of my life," said Ratajczak. "But in doing so, I learned a lot about myself and I learned the value of having to earn an opportunity to play. I learned how much hard work and preparation on a consistent basis is necessary to earn the opportunity to perform and fight for the club week in and week out. In my experience, opportunities are never just given, they are earned."
"I also learned that while it's very difficult to consistently fight for a spot, it's the only environment in which you best develop as a player and as a human being," stated Ratacjzak. "If it was easy, it wouldn't be worth the time and effort. That's a very big component of what makes the opportunity to play for and represent the club in games all the more gratifying."
Ratajczak finally did get his chance on the field last season, where he was slotted at left back. Playing in a promotion game that offered Fjölnir the chance to move from the First Division in Iceland to the Premier League it was Ratajczak who banged home the game-winning goal with his right foot out of a scramble in the box in the 80th minute. Fjölnir later scored a third goal to win 3-1, but it was Ratajczak's tally that was the difference, lifting Fjölnir into the Premier League for 2014.
"I am extremely happy and excited for Matt as his goal when he arrived on campus in 2009 was to try to play professional soccer upon graduating from Williams," said Eph head coach Mike Russo. "Once at Williams, Matt committed himself to the team and to improving his own performance. I can honestly state that no one worked harder during the season and in the offseason months to achieve his goal."
This season Ratajczak expects to see time at both left back and his more customary position of central back as Fjölnir steps up to the top level of play in Iceland.
"The level of play at Fjölnir is certainly a big step up from Williams," Ratajczak stated. "The pace and tempo of the game is faster and sharper. I certainly went through an adjustment period in terms of getting acclimated to the level of play in training, but I just tried to focus on my strengths as a player and worked hard to get better every day. I was happy with my development last season from an individual standpoint and am very excited to have a full year to continue to develop and help the club accomplish its goals."
"Matt has all the attributes to be an excellent outside or central defender as he is a good 1v1 defender, is excellent in the air, and has very good distribution skill when he has the ball at his feet," Russo noted.
"Matt was always one of the fittest players on our team and he possesses an excellent soccer brain," continued Russo. "The Williams soccer community wishes him all the best in his endeavor in Iceland and one day we hope to see him playing professionally in our country."
Ratajczak will head to Iceland in two weeks to prepare for the season that runs from May through October. Prior to the start of the Premier League Fjölnir will participate in a number of cup competitions and take a trip to Spain to train and play.