The LA Galaxy have finally sealed the deal to land Robbie Rogers , but it didn’t come without a price.
The club announced Saturday that it has shipped venerable goal scorer and postseason hero Mike Magee to the Chicago Fire in order to bring in Rogers, the much-publicized US international who will become the first openly gay athlete to play in Major League Soccer.
Rogers, 26, will also be 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."
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said in the club's press conference on Saturday that if Rogers gets official clearance to play, he will be part of the squad in LA's home clash with the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night (11 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), and if he doesn’t play this weekend, he could debut in the team’s US Open Cup match on Wednesday against the Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C.
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.
If Rogers does not play against Seattle he could make his debut in the team’s US Open Cup match on Wednesday against the Carolina RailHawks in Cary, N.C.
“We are pleased to be able to add a player of Robbie’s qualities to our roster and feel that he will help improve our team now and in the future,” Arena said. “It is also important to recognize Mike Magee and all of his accomplishments with our club. What he and his teammates have achieved over the past four years has been remarkable and we wish nothing but the best to him and his family as they begin this next chapter of their lives.”
Magee, who originally hails from the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, is expected to join the Fire on Monday and will not play in the team's match on the road at Real Salt Lake on Saturday (9 pm ET, watch on MLS Live). He could make his Fire debut in their Open Cup match on Wednesday on the road against the Charlotte Eagles in North Carolina.
“To add someone of Mike’s caliber to the Fire roster is tremendous,” Chicago Fire president of soccer operations Javier Leon said in a statement. “Mike is a proven offensive threat and to have him on our roster is a great opportunity for the Fire. He’s a Chicago guy, and we know he’s just as excited to come back home as we are to have him join the club.”
Rogers 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.’”
An exciting future lies ahead, not only for me but for our society. instagram.com/p/Zv8Z1cp3Wh/— Robbie Rogers (@robbierogers) May 25, 2013
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 and LA Galaxy star 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.
The Fire held his MLS rights all along via an offseason trade with Columbus before Rogers’ revelation, and insisted they would welcome Rogers with open arms. Fire owner Andrew Hauptman met with Rogers in Los Angeles earlier this month to discuss bringing him to Chicago, but with no agreement made, the clubs agreed to a trade.
“We initially acquired the rights to Robbie Rogers because we think he is a great player," Leon said. "As he expressed his interested in being home near his family, we’re happy to have worked out a deal with the Galaxy that will benefit all parties. We wish Robbie all the best with the Galaxy.”
Magee, 28, is one of the league’s premier clutch goal scorers and was a key part of the Galaxy’s back-to-back MLS Cup titles in 2011 and 2012. 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.
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Magee joins 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.
Arena indicated on Saturday that Magee approved of the trade, and that the Galaxy would not have completed the move if Magee had not signed off on the deal.
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 2011, but was sidelined by an ankle injury after just four appearances before he was loaned to Stevenage last 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.”