CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Rogers took his initial steps toward resuming his soccer career on Tuesday, joining the LA Galaxy for an open-ended training stint that his new teammates, as it were, hope could lead to a job with the club.
Rogers, who retired two months ago when he announced on his blog that he is gay, was in preseason form during the session at the Home Depot Center, but he appeared to be enjoying himself and interacted easily with Galaxy players.
He declined through a club spokesman to speak with the media, but Landon Donovan made it clear everyone was very happy to have him in camp.
“It was fun to play with him,” said Donovan, who has played alongside Rogers with the US national team. “He's been out awhile, so it's going to take him a while to get back into it, and he would admit that, but hopefully he does well.
"My personal hope is that we'll sign him and that they can find out a way to work a trade with Chicago," Donovan added. "I think beyond the immediate soccer part, I think there's much bigger positive consequences that can come from that, and we're all hopeful that he'll get fit and play well and that Bruce [Arena] wants to sign him.”
Mike Magee said it was “good to see him overcome some barriers and get back on the field. I think everyone hoped he would, and we're pretty certain we'll see him on the field one day [in a real game], hopefully here.”
The Chicago Fire acquired his rights during the offseason from the Columbus Crew, for whom Rogers played five seasons before signing in January 2012 with Leeds United in England. Arena said it would be “inappropriate” to discuss any interest he might have in signing Rogers, but the 25-year-old winger is from Southern California and trained with the Galaxy last summer during the English offseason.
Rogers saw some action last fall for Leeds United and on loan to Stevenage, but he hasn't played since departing Leeds “by mutual consent” four months ago and believed he needed to step away from the game when he came out publicly in February.
“We've just been in contact for while and offered him the opportunity to train whenever he felt he was ready to get back in and give it a go,” Arena said. “He looked a lot sharper than I thought he would today, given the fact that he's been away from the game for awhile.”
Rogers, whose return to the field came a day after NBA center Jason Collins announced through a Sports Illustrated story that he was gay, tweeted after training that he “had a great first day back w/@LAGalaxy. Very appreciative that Bruce is allowing me to train w/the team to get back in shape.” He then tweeted a link to an Instagram photo of him during the session and wrote, “Genuinely feels great to step back on the pitch.”
Donovan called Rogers “an inspiration to all of us as human beings.”
“I think he's paving the way not only for gay-lesbian-transgender-bisexual people and athletes, but for all of us to be OK with who we are, and he's paved the way for [Collins] coming out,” Donovan said. “At the end of the day, I believe we're all human beings and we all have differences, and that should unite us. Unfortunately, it separates us a lot of the time.
"He's showing us that it's OK to be human and be yourself ... We can all learn a lot from him.”