Robbie Rogers - LA Galaxy - Santos Laguna - CCL
USA Today Sports

LA Galaxy's Robbie Rogers learning yet another position on defense: Right back

CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Rogers has spent his entire career on the left flank, but he's a natural right-footer, so switching sides can't be all that difficult, right?

Afraid not. The LA Galaxy veteran, who two years ago shifted from winger to outside back, is transitioning to the right-back position after the acquisition of Ashley Cole, and it's not been as simple as he thought it was going to be.

Rogers, 28, is working on correcting his tendencies and is learning to see things from a reverse angle. Once he masters it – and everyone is fully confident he will – the Galaxy's backline, a problem spot last year, could be the best the club has seen.

It'll just take a little time.

“I actually thought that, OK, this is fine. I'm right-footed and I've played left back, it won't be that difficult,” Rogers, who was told about the change just before Christmas, told MLSsoccer.com. “But as I started thinking about it more and I got here for preseason, I [found] it's a little more difficult than I thought it was going to be.”

He's worked on the transition through preseason and in the Galaxy's competitive opener, last week's scoreless draw with Santos Laguna in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal, and will get another test Tuesday night, when LA visit Santos for the second leg (10 pm ET; FS2, Galavision - US; Sportsnet World - CAN).

“It's not as easy as people think,” he said. “It's a pretty big change. I've played on the left side professionally for 10 years now. Just timing and which foot you're using, how you're facing the field, it's kind of opposite on the other side, so it's going to take me some time to get used to.”

Rogers, who two years ago transitioned from a winger to an outside back, is benefiting from good health – this is the first time since he signed with the Galaxy in May 2013 that he's felt so good – after undergoing offseason surgery on his left Achilles' tendon. It had been bothering him since last spring.

“I had a loose bone floating around my Achilles, rubbing against my Achilles, just grinding it, and it was the size of a quarter,” Rogers said. “It was extremely painful last year. I couldn't properly train or do any extra stuff. I was barely getting by every week. I feel a million times better.”

Things are going great in his personal life, too. He and his partner, film and television writer/director/producer Greg Berlanti, became fathers Feb. 18, when their son, Caleb, was born via a surrogate. It's been a life-changing experience, as all parents can attest.

“Greg's been wanting to have a kid since before I met him,” said Rogers, who has been with Berlanti for three years. “It was about a year ago he decided this was 'something that I dream about and I've wanted for such a long time,' so, obviously, I've been very supportive of him, and I love kids.

“I've heard other people speak about their kids and watched my sisters have little girls, and you love them, but you can't really relate until you have your own. Now I understand what they're talking about.”

All of that has provided a firm foundation for making the switch, one of several changes as LA's backline has gotten deeper and more experienced. Jelle Van Damme, who arrived in the wake of Omar Gonzalez's departure, figures to team up in the middle with A.J. DeLaGarza or Leonardo, with Cole on the left and Rogers on the right.

The primary change for Rogers is in his brain. Playing on the right side needs to be second nature to him, and that's still a ways off.

“Everything is changing: the way you're opening up and facing the field and taking your first touch with your right instead of your left, and being able to cut in – instead of cutting in on my right, I'm cutting in on my left. ... It's slowly coming, but it's not there yet.

“I'll need a few games, just like it took me a season to really figure out [the left-back] position. It will take me some time. I just need to be patient with it.”

The Galaxy are giving him the time and opportunity to slowly get up to speed.

“I think we're making it out to be maybe bigger than it is,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan said, “but the relationship he has with players ahead of him is still going to be a building block.

“It's still establishing a good relationship with the interior center back and the wide midfielder. Part of that is still in transition, but in terms of the adaptation of using his left and his right and all that, I think it's coming along fine.”

DeLaGarza, who has played in all four backline positions for LA, can relate and notes that “it's difficult, it takes time and games and reps.”

“He was arguably the best left back in the league last year,” DeLaGarza said, “and I think he's capable of doing that on the right, as well.”

The toughest aspect, Rogers says, is going forward. Overlapping is one of his better qualities as an outside back, and he and Giovani Dos Santos appeared to create a nice relationship during preseason. Gyasi Zardes started on the right side of midfield in the opener against Santos and could see regular time there.

“[Dos Santos] is the kind of guy who likes to come inside, so I can kind of come around him,” Rogers said. “As the season gets going and we play more games, I'll find my spots and my timing, and I'll feel more comfortable going forward.”