CARSON, Calif. -- Robbie Rogers once believed he couldn't be gay and pursue a professional soccer career, a misconception that evaporated once he joined the LA Galaxy two years ago and found an acceptance -- among teammates, foes, and fans throughout MLS -- that he hadn't expected.
He came full circle in Wednesday night's 5-0 rout of visiting Portland, scoring his first goal for the Galaxy in front of a StubHub Center crowd that included so many from a community he's come to represent.
Rogers' finish, to give LA a three-goal advantage from a superb Robbie Keane feed in the 33rd minute, couldn't have arrived at a more appropriate time, on a night the Galaxy honored the LGBT community.
Rogers, who has missed on a number of outstanding chances in his time with the Galaxy, celebrated a night he'll never forget with that strike.
“Of course, I want to score, but going into games, I don't think, 'Oh, I'm going to score tonight,' ” Rogers said after LA (7-5-7) moved within a point of the Western Conference lead. “I've been close, and when I did finally score, in this game, In didn't think it was going to be as emotional. I didn't think it would have the impact that it had on me.
“Tonight's obviously Pride Night, so it's special, and I think that's why I was more emotional. Because I knew there were a lot of people who haven't been to this stadium before, my family, my boyfriend, his friends, and my other friends, and a lot of people from [the huge LGBT community in] West Hollywood. It was special.”
Rogers, whose abilities had taken him to Holland, five seasons with the Columbus Crew, two years in England and 18 caps with the US national team, announced in February 2013 that he was gay and was retiring from soccer because he didn't think it was possible to continue on as a gay man.
The Galaxy offered him a chance to train, and he loved it -- and the acceptance he received from the club. He finally signed in May 2013, endured multiple injuries over the next year, then transitioned to left back last year, reinventing himself in the process.
He's just back from an Achilles ailment that sidelined him for six games, and his return -- among several key players during LA's early-season injury crisis -- has played a role in LA's tremendous recent form, with five-goal outings against Philadelphia and now the Timbers.
Head coach Bruce Arena was surprised to learn Rogers hadn't scored for his team.
“That's his first goal?” Arena asked during his postgame news conference. “He should have about 10, actually. He makes a big difference for us. We've missed some important players in the first three or four months of the season, and to get them back is really helpful.”
“Great pass by Robbie,” Rogers said. “I just ran pretty much, and I don't know what the keeper was doing. He came out too early. Robbie and the keeper made it for me.”
Keane told Rogers he owed him a bottle of red wine. Rogers joked that he would deliver a bottle of Hennessy cognac.
Rogers said the opportunity to excel on the Galaxy's LGBT Pride Night meant more to him than he thought it would.
“I just know when I'm playing, obviously I'm playing for the Galaxy and these guys [in this locker room], most importantly, for myself and my family,” he said. “But I also feel like I'm playing for the LGBT community. Sometimes it's been tough for me, and I feel the pressure, and moments like this, I never expected for me to find that pride, really, or to be proud of coming from a community that obviously doesn't have a huge footprint in sports.
"But to be part of it, [among] the first guys with Jason [Collins, a gay NBA player] and Michael [Sam, a gay American football player] and some female athletes, it's a special moment.”