(AP) Rogers makes Galaxy debut as openly gay athlete
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
Robbie Rogers is back where he feels he belongs and is most comfortable. On a soccer field playing the game he’s loved since he was a boy. Now that he has revealed the long kept secret that he is gay, he’s ready to move on and put the focus on resuming his career.
Rogers made history on Sunday night when he became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a U.S. professional league, making his Major League Soccer debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The team made it easy on the 26-year-old midfielder by building a 4-0 lead over the Seattle Sounders by the time he entered as a substitute in the 77th minute.
He received loud cheers from the crowd of 24,811 as he ran onto the pitch, with fans chanting his last name. Rogers’ family, including his grandparents, and friends were in the stands.
He ran by teammate Landon Donovan, who slapped his hand and patted him on the back as he took his position.
Rogers had five touches, one tackle and three completed passes in the game’s final 13 minutes. He hadn’t played professionally since last year. He spent the last two seasons in England.
Rogers retired from the sport in February, when he revealed in a post on his blog that he is gay. He has been training with the Galaxy since April at the invitation of coach Bruce Arena.
Rogers’ signing on Saturday was so recent that he wasn’t listed in the game day program, which featured a picture of Mike Magee in the centerfold. Magee, the Galaxy’s leading scorer and a fan favorite, was traded to his hometown Chicago Fire, which held Rogers’ MLS rights.
Rogers has the support of his teammates, who understand how much he wants to regain the form that once earned him a spot on the U.S. national team.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, who once coached the Galaxy, sought out Rogers for a supportive pre-game hug. The two men have known each other since Rogers was 7.
But it took time for Rogers to decide he wanted to accept Arena’s offer to train with the Galaxy. Eventually, he knew he wanted to resume his career with the team located not far from his hometown of Huntington Beach.
Arena cautioned that Rogers needs time to regain his fitness and skill level.
Nerves began getting the best of Rogers in the hours before he left home for the stadium. Not because he was worried about the prospect of being the first openly gay male athlete to play, but because his soccer skills were rusty.
He called his sister for reassurance.
Schmid believes that in time Rogers’ sexuality won’t be a story anymore.
Rogers isn’t sure what awaits him as the Galaxy heads out on a five-game road trip, and he is held up as a role model.