CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Rogers will enjoy this one.
The 27-year-old defender won his second MLS Cup on Sunday afternoon when the LA Galaxy beat the New England Revolution, 2-1, on an overtime goal from Robbie Keane, and Rogers experienced a much sweeter delight than the last time he celebrated in the bowels of StubHub Center.
“I’m such a different person,” Rogers told reporters. “I can’t explain it. It’s been a difficult, but amazing journey.”
Rogers’ first triumph in his hometown building came in 2008 when he helped the Columbus Crew beat the New York Red Bulls. He had not publicly come out as gay at the time, and Rogers had too much on his mind to enjoy the championship.
On Sunday, Rogers recalled having a couple beers and then heading home to sit in bed, wondering why he wasn’t out celebrating the Crew’s victory with teammates.
“I couldn’t even enjoy it,” Rogers said. “I remember just being alright with it, and the emotion I had after the game [Sunday], I can’t explain. It’s been such a long journey and for it to end this way, just to share it with these guys on the field, has been amazing.”
A year-and-a-half after coming out of early retirement to become the first openly gay male athlete to compete in an American sports league, Rogers was able to embrace his family on the field following the victory, which he was taken out of in the 90th minute for Dan Gargan. He said he was very emotional, but he gathered himself in time to rejoice with manager Bruce Arena and team president Chris Klein.
“I thanked them for including me, for having me here and having faith in me,” Rogers said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Rogers, who had the match's first golden opportunity inside the box, also thanked good friend Landon Donovan and was happy to see him go out on top.
“For me personally, Landon was one of the guys that helped me get back into the game,” Rogers said. “He’s been a supporter of mine throughout my career and I’ve always looked up to him. To let him go on this vacation, start the adventure of his new life and figure out what he wants to do, I’m just so happy he can leave the Galaxy with his head held extremely high.
"Even without this win, he’s had such an amazing career. He’s the best player for US soccer ever and in this league, and has done so much. To get him the extra silverware, I’m just very proud of the team and I’m happy I was able to share it with him.”
Rogers, who dealt with a hamstring issue during the postseason, was a key component during the Galaxy’s stretch run. The club rewarded him with a multi-year contract extension in mid-November.
“It’s been a crazy season and such a long season, but what an amazing journey it’s been for our team,” Rogers said. “So many individual battles we’ve had to overcome, but at the end it’s made us such a strong team. The character was amazing.”