CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Rogers knew he was making history when he stepped onto the field Sunday night, a substitute coming on late in a 4-0 romp that had long been over, for all intents. But he found it was just like it had been so many times before.
The LA Galaxy's newest name became the first openly gay athlete to appear in a men's major-sport team event when he came on for Juninho in the 77th minute of their romp over the Seattle Sounders.
He said he battled nerves earlier in the day – in his apartment before heading out to the Home Depot Center, and again in his car on the drive, when he called his sister, Alicia. But once he arrived at the stadium, and when Galaxy coach Bruce Arena gave him a run-out near the end, everything was “normal.”
“I guess part of me was just afraid – not afraid, but a little nervous, I guess,” Rogers said in the postgame press conference. “I understand that, I guess, historically this is a big thing, but for me, it's just another soccer game. So I've kind of been battling with both of those things: 'OK, a soccer game: I've done this a million times.' But then, obviously, I'm not naïve, I know people are watching.”
Those on hand gave him a rousing ovation – amid a few chanting for Mike Magee, whom LA gave up to acquire Rogers – and what they saw wasn't anything special, history aside.
“I only had a few touches, so I was happy to get a few touches,” Rogers said. “My running felt pretty good – I felt like I haven't lost too much speed – but it was 4-0, so it's hard to say. ... I think the real test will come maybe Wednesday [in the US Open Cup meeting with the NASL's Carolina RailHawks] or the weekend [at New England].”
Arena said Rogers has much work to do.
“In terms of a player, he can't be judged tonight. He can't be judged in the next couple of weeks,” Arena said. “Down the road, he can be judged as a player. It's way too early. We're just fortunate the game tonight played out the way it did and there was an opportunity to get him on the field. But he's got a way to go, and it's going to take some time, and we'll be patient with him.”
Rogers said he had “a huge smile of enjoyment” as he stepped onto the field, and a feeling that, “OK, I'm back, this is normal. Great, very supportive [crowd]. I keep saying the word 'normal, normal,' but once I got on, I zoned in, was hopeful for getting a goal or something. It was good to be back. I'm just excited to move on from here.”
The occasion, Rogers said, was “perfect, really perfect.”
“We won, which is most important,” he said. “My family was here, my friends, my grandparents.”
And playing against a team managed by Sigi Schmid, whom he has known since he was 7 – and whom he won an MLS Cup title with, back in 2008 with Columbus – made it all the more special.
“The first training session the Galaxy ever had on the Home Depot Center pitch [in 2003], I was here training with the Galaxy,” Rogers said. “Sigi was coach. I've kind of been on this huge journey to kind of figure out my life, and now I'm back here, I think kind of where I'm supposed to be.”