CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Rogers is preparing for his first postseason with the LA Galaxy, which begins Sunday evening against Real Salt Lake at the StubHub Center (9 pm ET, ESPN), and he believes his side has an advantage over the rest of the MLS playoff field.
“I think everyone is a little bit afraid to play us,” Rogers said following LA's training session Tuesday morning. “I think there is a little bit of fear to play us, obviously, with [us being] back-to-back champions. I think people are a little bit afraid to come here, and I think that's a good place to be.”
Rogers also is happy about where he is at the moment, healthy and fit for the first time since he signed in late May and coming off strong performances last week in the Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League loss at Isidro Metapán and in his first start since mid-August, Sunday's 1-1 draw at Seattle.
MLS Insider: Rogers' homecoming
The winger's return from a two-month absence – the layoff was due to a difficult rehab stint for a torn hamstring – started with 25 minutes on Oct. 20 against San Jose, then took a big step forward in the games that followed.
“I've been trying to focus on every day just improving a little bit, and I haven't played that many games the past two or three months, but I think every game I've gotten a little bit better,” Rogers said. “I think it's good timing that I'm a little bit more fit and stronger going into the playoffs.”
Head coach Bruce Arena's judgment is that Rogers is “getting better,” but it's “too early to, you know, dot the I's and cross the T's. We'll see how he progresses as we continue to move forward.”
The Galaxy want Rogers to be more dangerous in the final third, and he hit the crossbar near the end of the Metapán game and forced Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning to tip his blast over the crossbar in the 40th minute Sunday.
“I think he's turned a corner physically,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “He had some injuries, and he was out, so now he's had to ramp up the fitness and the sharpness, the explosiveness. We were pleased with the effort he gave in Seattle.
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"As far as the dirty running and the tracking and the defending and the shape we had to keep, I thought he did a good job," continued Sarachan. “So that part's good, now he just has to get it going the other way, in the attacking third, [be] a little sharper. He did get that chance with his right foot that Gspurning saved, so that part needs to get a little cleaner, but I think he's turned a corner.”
Rogers knows he needs to do more in the final third and hopes to do so on Sunday against RSL.
“It's difficult in Seattle. You're playing on turf, and I don't think we created that many chances, period,” he said. “[But creating more chances] is definitely one thing I need to do when we're playing at home, on such a big field and the way we play.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.