Robbie Rogers, openly gay soccer player, joins the Galaxy
For Robbie Rogers, the comeback trail is laid out in front of him.
The Galaxy unveiled its newest acquisition Saturday afternoon, and Rogers will become the first openly gay athlete to play in an American professional sports league for men when he takes the field, which could come as early as Sunday.
“For 25 years, I’ve been afraid to share a secret with someone,” Rogers said. “And I finally did that. I kept my secret because I thought I couldn’t be both a soccer player and a gay athlete.
“I was afraid to be back in an environment that affected me in the past. After I finally got in here, everything was completely normal.”
Rogers signed a multiyear contract and will wear No. 14. He said the decision to return to soccer was not influenced by the recent announcement of Jason Collins, who sought counsel from Rogers.
“He asked me for some advice and I was honest with him and wished him the best of luck,” Rogers said. “I’m hoping for millions of people it will give them the confidence to do it.”
Rogers, 26, left the MLS for Leeds United of England’s second-tier Championship League in December 2011 but was hobbled by injuries throughout his tenure in England. He last saw game action in August with Stevenage in England’s third-tier league while on loan from Leeds. Over the last two seasons, Rogers didn’t score a goal in 13 games with Leeds United and Stevenage.
After cutting ties with Leeds, Rogers retired from soccer in February, when he revealed in a lengthy blog post that he is gay. Rogers has been training with the Galaxy since April after an invitation from Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena.
“There is something unique about the MLS. The locker rooms in the MLS are a little bit differenet than in Europe .… The MLS definitely is ready and the United States is ready for other [openly gay] athletes in other sports.”
Pending receipt of an international transfer approval, Arena said, Rogers will be a part of the Galaxy’s 18-man game roster for Sunday’s showdown with Seattle, but was unclear whether he will see game action.
“We will slowly build him into it,” Arena said. “He will need his proper minutes in games before he is a player in a starting position.”
Rogers has 18 caps for the U.S. national team, with the most recent coming Nov. 15 in a friendly against Slovenia. He last scored in U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann’s national team debut on Aug. 10 against Mexico. Rogers said he hopes to make the national team in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Rogers won an MLS championship with Columbus in 2008, the same year he was selected to the MLS Best XI all-league team. He won an NCAA championship with Maryland in 2005.
When asked about to the reception he expects to receive from opposing fans and players, Rogers said he hopes to be treated like any other player, but knows that might not be the case.
“I’m not naïve, if I do hear something I know not to react.”
The trade didn’t come without a steep price. The Galaxy gave up leading scorer Mike Magee, who is tied for second in the MLS with six goals. Just 10 games into the season, Magee is only one goal away from tying his career high.
“Mike Magee was a great player here,” Arena said. “In Mike’s four years with the Galaxy … those are unprecedented. To acquire a very good player, sometimes you have to give up a very good player.”
Arena said the move was nothing more than a step to improve the Galaxy.
“We are in this business to win game,” he said. “If I thought that this would not enable us to continue along this path, we would not have made this trade.”
Magee has been dubbed Mr. November by fans and teammates for his performance in the MLS playoffs — eight goals in 17 playoff games with the Galaxy. The 28-year-old forward played a critical role in the Galaxy’s back-to-back MLS Cup victories in 2011 and 2012, scoring six goals in his last 10 playoff games.
The Galaxy acquired Rogers from the Chicago Fire, who held first refusal rights to Rogers. The trade gives both players a chance to return home, each wanting to do so for personal reasons.
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