Postcard from Europe: Rogers heads home for Leeds future
AMSTERDAM — As the old Yiddish proverb-turned-Woody Allen line goes, want to make God laugh? Make a plan.
After being the butt of all possible jokes about ambition during his first six months in England, Leeds United winger Robbie Rogers is now busy plotting his last laugh.
It all started so well, too. Courted and signed as a free agent from the Columbus Crew by then-manager Simon Grayson, and with UK work permit help from US boss Jurgen Klinsmann, Rogers arrived at Elland Road in January to join a club in the thick of the Championship promotion playoff race.
After that, he debuted for the club on the same mid-February day when the guy who recruited him was fired and replaced at the helm by Neil Warnock. Rogers didn't finish that appearance, suffering a blow to the head in an aerial challenge.
"The beginning to my Leeds career was definitely a little hectic," Rogers told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. "With the injuries and changes with the gaffer, life was not boring."
Not boring is a huge understatement. After the coaching change, it took the 25-year-old nearly two months to get even a substitute appearance from Warnock.
Eight days later and just 11 minutes into his first Leeds start, an ankle injury ended his season after just four appearances. The team, meanwhile, closed out by losing six of their last 10 to finish well out of the money in 14th place.
Despite having all of his early 2012 plans properly mashed, Rogers did not sulk or fret. He's been back in his native Southern California regaining full fitness with a helping hand from LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. Virtually all of his rehab workouts took place at the Home Depot Center and he’s even trained with the first team during a few training sessions.
"The Galaxy have really helped me get back to myself this offseason," said Rogers. "My ankle feels like it's 100 percent, and I feel strong and ready to get back into preseason.
"I have really enjoyed training with them and I am so thankful Bruce and the organization allowed for me to be part of their team for the past few months."
The recovery is nearly done and Rogers is a fair bet to make good on Warnock's public hope that he'll be ready when the club opens preseason drills on July 11.
Whenever Rogers is ready to fight for his place in the side, he will return for payback to the same plan that was on the drawing board when he joined up: Help Leeds end an eight-year, fiscally troubling exile from the Premier League.
"I 100 percent believe that this team can fight for promotion," Rogers said. "We expect ourselves to be fighting for the top position and I believe the fans think the same. Leeds is a massive club and have high expectations."
As it turns out, the Whites also happen to have their very own Major League Soccer PR firm. Between Rogers and former FC Dallas attacker Ramón Núñez, questions are well covered for all those in the Leeds clubhouse who are considering plans for a soccer adventure in America.
"You would be surprised how many questions I get," the former Crew man said. "I think I might have a future as an agent bringing British players to the US."
In all seriousness, Rogers says he does his part to sell the league's qualities to interested teammates and Championship opponents.
"The guys in England are very interested in MLS," he said. "I think it could benefit both parties."
Before he starts mapping out his sports representation career, though, Rogers will be sticking to the big plan in chronological order. First comes a chance to cement his place on Warnock's lineup, which would put him in position to shoot for Leeds' grand aim.
"The manager is bringing me back," said a content Rogers. "And [he's] expecting me to help push this team to the Prem."