Following first league start since 2011, LA Galaxy's Robbie Rogers "slowly coming back" to full fitness

Robbie Rogers beams after LAvSEA

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CARSON, Calif. — Robbie Rogers continues to make strides toward recouping full fitness and the kind of form that made him a US national team player, and his run-out on Wednesday night against the Portland Timbers was just another step forward.

The veteran winger made his first MLS start for the LA Galaxy and lasted until the 69th minute of the 0-0 draw against the Portland Timbers at the StubHub Center, then proclaimed he still has plenty of work to do to get where he wants to be.

“It felt good to have a proper start, to get back out there and to be out there from the beginning,” said Rogers, who made his first Galaxy start in Saturday's Reserve League draw against the USL PRO's LA Blues. “I still think I have a long ways to go, but there were flashes where I was getting my legs back, and I was moving quite well at times. That's good to see after putting in a lot of hard work. But things are slowly coming back.”

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Rogers started on the right flank, switched to the left late in the first half, and played a role in LA's fine buildup between the boxes in a match nearly devoid of legitimate scoring opportunities.

“He's making progress,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “He has a long way to go. But that's the only way he can get good, is getting him in the games. I thought his first 15 or 20 minutes were very tentative. He got better and got into a rhythm the last part of the first half and a little bit better in the second half. It's going to take some time.”

Rogers says he's getting closer.

“I think I probably need two more games to really get flying around and not be worrying about my fitness,” he said. “Actually, I felt pretty good in the second half. I actually felt I could have played a little longer, which surprised me.”

Rogers returned to the field last month, signing on with his hometown Galaxy – whom he had trained with for a month – after they traded Mike Magee to Chicago to acquire his rights. The 26-year-old winger, who spent the previous year in England, had announced his retirement in February when he revealed he is gay.

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He says he's been welcomed wholeheartedly by the two-time defending MLS Cup champions, and the camaraderie reminds him of his championship year with the Columbus Crew.

“[LA has] a really talented team and a great locker room. A very comfortable and positive setting we have in here,” Rogers said. “Something we had in Columbus in 2008. I think that makes a great team, actually.”

He's anxious to be in position to truly contribute to the Galaxy and says he hopes “I get another chance” in the starting XI when they meet Chivas USA in Sunday's SuperClasico.

“I still have a lot of hard work ahead of me to really get fit, 100 percent,” Rogers said. “To see the improvement I'm slowly making week by week in the games, it's great for me to feel like the hard work is going somewhere. I’m excited for the next game and I’m excited to move on the following week.”

Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.