Robbie Rogers called time on his groundbreaking 11-year professional playing career on Tuesday, a run that included two MLS Cup championships and the distinction of becoming the first openly gay male athlete to compete in a top North American professional sports league.
Rogers, 30, joined MLS in 2007 after leading the University of Maryland to an NCAA title in his single season of college play and trying his hand in Europe with Dutch side SC Heerenveen. He helped Columbus Crew SC win the 2008 MLS Cup and back-to-back Supporters’ Shields in 2008 and 2009, earning MLS All-Star honors in both seasons.
After a stint in England with Leeds United, Rogers publicly revealed his sexuality and briefly retired in 2013 before returning to MLS to join his hometown club the LA Galaxy later that year, making history as an out athlete in the process.
He would make 78 regular-season appearances and and 11 playoff appearances for the Galaxy, including a starting role as LA won the 2014 MLS Cup on home soil. Injury problems have dogged him in recent years, and he was placed on LA’s Season Ending Injury (SEI) list in May following offseason surgery to address nerve damage sustained in his left ankle.
“It is with mixed emotions that I announce my retirement from the game of soccer,” said Rogers in a statement. “Having the opportunity to win an MLS Cup in my hometown, with my hometown club as an openly gay man will be something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I will remain deeply connected to this sport and its surrounding community. I leave the game full of pride of what I have accomplished as a person and a player. I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life.”
Internationally, Rogers recorded 18 international caps with the US national team and represented the US extensively at the U-23, U-20, U-18 and U-17 levels, including a key role on the 2008 US Olympic Team that competed in Beijing, China. He finishes his MLS career with 16 goals and 24 assists in 204 overall appearances in regular-season and postseason action.
“Robbie Rogers has been an integral part of our club and our community since he joined the LA Galaxy in 2013,” said Galaxy president Chris Klein. “During his time in Los Angeles, Robbie has been an elite athlete and a good teammate. He helped lead our club to a championship in 2014 while breaking barriers and being a force for positive change in our sport and in our community. We want to thank Robbie for his time with the LA Galaxy and wish him the best of luck in the next step of his career.”
You can read more about Rogers' decision to retire in this interview at LAGalaxy.com.
As a young boy I dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player and representing my country in front of the world. But as a teenager I grew more and more consumed by fear and shame. And sadly, at some point the scared kid inside me decided that pursuing my dream meant sacrificing a part of myself and hiding my sexuality from the world instead of embracing it. My happiest years as a player are the ones where I could walk through the stadium at the end of games down the tunnel to my partner and son waiting for me at the other end. And my only regret in my eleven year career are the years I spent in the closet. I wish I could have found the courage that so many young individuals have shared with me in the past five years to live honestly and openly as a gay person. These are the young people that inspired me to overcome my fears and return to playing. They’re still the kids that send me letters every week. To those kids, I say thank you. My proudest accomplishment in my career is helping to create a more open sport for you. None of this would have been possible without my teammates and brothers on and off the field, without the LA Galaxy and Bruce Arena who saw me as another player and not a distraction, or without the fans who judged me for my work ethic and my play and not my sexuality. And finally, it couldn’t have been possible without my family, who loved me through all of my ups and downs and always supported my dreams and still do. Lastly to all of the women and men who are still frightened to share their truth with the world, I’d encourage you to come out. By sharing who you are you will not only be improving your own life but inspiring and literally saving the lives of young people across the world. You deserve to take that same walk, down the players tunnel and have your own partner or loved ones waiting for you. Again thank you to everyone who watched or help me follow these dreams. I could never have imagined the happiness I’ll take with me into retirement and into my next chapter.