US international and former Columbus Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers looks set to return to playing and to MLS.
USAToday.com is reporting that Rogers, who stepped away from playing after announcing in February that he is gay, will join the LA Galaxy, with whom he has been training for the past few weeks.
Rogers, 26, would be the first openly gay player in MLS and, upon making his debut for the Galaxy, and the first openly gay athlete to play in competition in the five major North American leagues.
"I want to come back and be that voice, be that role model," Rogers told USAToday.com. "I want to compete on the field. I want to make it back to the national team. I want to be a role model. I have a lot of motivating factors working for me right now.
"There's a lot to be excited about. It's awesome to be part of a movement that is changing our society."
There was no confirmation of the deal from MLS or the Galaxy as of Friday night. The club has announced it will hold a press conference on Saturday afternoon to address "a player acquisition."
For Rogers to join the Galaxy, a deal would first have to be struck with the Chicago Fire. The Fire acquired the right of first refusal for Rogers' signature in MLS as part of an offseason trade with Columbus that sent Dominic Oduro to the Crew in exchange for Dilly Duka.
On Friday night, The Washington Post's Steven Goff and others reported that the Galaxy will trade midfielder Mike Magee for the right to sign Rogers.
It's happening, 2nd source says: Magee for Rogers, straight up #mls— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) May 25, 2013
Rogers, 26, became an international celebrity in February when he revealed he was gay via a candid late-night post on his personal blog. He hinted at retirement from the game in the same breath and appeared ready to walk away completely until he resurfaced in his native Los Angeles earlier this month, training with the Galaxy.
He said he was spurred on in part by watching clips of his MLS playing days used as stock footage during his high-profile interviews on CNN and ABC in April.
“To be honest, I had no plans of going back to football at all and definitely not this soon,” Rogers told the Soccer Today podcast on May 5, days after he began training with the Galaxy. “But I was looking over some video clips of me just training, fooling around and just enjoying football. … And it kind of just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I miss this stuff.’”
Rogers' decision to return to the playing field comes several weeks after NBA veteran Jason Collins came out in an essay published in Sports Illustrated. Collins reached out to Rogers for advice on dealing with the media after his revelation, USAToday.com revealed.
But it was a conversation with longtime friend Landon Donovan that gave Rogers the final push to return.
"I sat down with Landon and just wanted to get an idea of what he thought of me coming back and what the atmosphere would be like," Rogers told USAToday.com.
It’s unclear if Rogers would take Magee’s spot in the Galaxy’s midfield immediately or if he could feature in LA's home clash with the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night (11 pm ET, ESPN2). Rogers has battled injuries for much of the past year and has not played in a competitive match since 2012. He last played while on loan with English League One side Stevenage, where he appeared in nine matches over a five-month span last year.
Rogers originally left MLS in 2011, after his fifth season of a prominent run with the Crew that included an MLS Cup trophy in 2008. He signed a deal with Championship side Leeds United in December 2012, but was sidelined by an ankle injury after just four appearances before he was loaned to Stevenage in August. Rogers and Leeds agreed to part ways in January.
Rogers has been in and out of the US national team picture for several years, and was one of the final cuts for the World Cup roster in 2010. The most recent of his 18 career caps came via a stoppage-time substitution during a 3-2 win against Slovenia in Nov. 2011.
“As a Federation we support all our athletes who have had the courage to address this deeply personal topic,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement following Rogers’ announcement in February. “We are proud of Robbie. He has been an outstanding representative of our national team program for many years. We support him and wish him great success in the future.”
Magee, one of the league’s premier clutch goal scorers and a key part of the Galaxy’s back-to-back MLS Cup titles in 2011 and 2012, originally hails from the Chicago suburb of South Barrington. He has scored 16 goals over the past 66 regular season games – he leads the Galaxy with six this season – and has been even more clinical during the postseason, with six goals in his last 10 playoff games, including two game-winners. He also scored the team’s only goal during regulation of the 2009 MLS Cup, which the Galaxy lost in a shootout to Real Salt Lake.
If the reports are true, Magee, 28, would join a Fire midfield that already includes a fellow MLS Cup winner in Jeff Larentowicz, as well as Joel Lindpere and Chris Rolfe. Magee could also be deployed as a forward, where he has played before, including spot duty for the Galaxy during the recent injuries to Robbie Keane.
Chicago play on the road at Real Salt Lake on Saturday (9 pm ET, watch on MLS Live); however, Magee probably would not make his Fire debut until their Open Cup match on Wednesday on the road against the Charlotte Eagles in North Carolina.