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Robbie Rogers enjoys historic night for LA Galaxy

May 27, 2013, 10:49 AM EDT

Seattle Sounders v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

As Robbie Rogers stepped on the pitch to become the first openly gay male in U.S. professional team sports, the 26 year old admitted to having some nerves before reminding himself that all was “normal.”

Rogers made history on Sunday when he subbed on for Juninho in the 77th minute of the Galaxy’s 4-0 thumping of the Seattle Sounders. It was an occasion that Rogers described as being “perfect, really perfect,” with his family, friends and grandparents all present to support him.

Here are some of highlights from the Galaxy’s postmatch press conference.

Overcoming nerves with experience

Rogers admitted that the situation caused some nerves, but that he used his experience to quell the anxiety.

“I guess part of me was just afraid – not afraid, but a little nervous, I guess,” Rogers said. “I understand that, I guess, historically this is a big thing, but for me, it’s just another soccer game. So I’ve kind of been battling with both of those things: ‘OK, a soccer game: I’ve done this a million times.’ But then, obviously, I’m not naïve, I know people are watching.”

The real test, fitness-wise, will come in Wednesday’s US Open Cup match

Rogers admitted that while he was happy to be on the pitch although the match conditions didn’t allow him to get a true feel for where he’s at fitness-wise.

“I only had a few touches, so I was happy to get a few touches,” Rogers said. “My running felt pretty good – I felt like I haven’t lost too much speed – but it was 4-0, so it’s hard to say. … I think the real test will come maybe Wednesday [in the US Open Cup meeting with the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks] or the weekend [at New England].”

“Normal” was the key word for Rogers 

Rogers had “a huge smile of enjoyment” when he subbed on for Juninho.

He thought to himself, “OK, I’m back, this is normal. Great, very supportive [crowd]. I keep saying the word ‘normal, normal,’ but once I got on, I zoned in, was hopeful for getting a goal or something. It was good to be back. I’m just excited to move on from here.”

Rogers’ role going forward

While last night was a massive moment for Rogers, Major League Soccer and all professional sports, Galaxy manager Bruce Arena urged caution in judging the player’s impact. “In terms of a player, he can’t be judged tonight. He can’t be judged in the next couple of weeks,” Arena said. “Down the road, he can be judged as a player. It’s way too early.”

Arena’s comments seem to indicate that despite Rogers’ appearance in last night’s match, the winger may not factor heavily into the Galaxy lineup in upcoming fixtures. “We’re just fortunate the game tonight played out the way it did and there was an opportunity to get him on the field,” Arena said. “But he’s got a way to go, and it’s going to take some time, and we’ll be patient with him.”

Rogers is finally where he supposed to be

After such a lengthy layoff from the game, it should be expected that Rogers will need some time to see the return of his fitness, touch and confidence. For now, the important thing is that Rogers continues to settle in at his new club. “I’ve kind of been on this huge journey to kind of figure out my life, and now I’m back here,” he sais. “I think kind of where I’m supposed to be.”

  1. Dan - May 27, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    Help me out here for a moment… Why is this historic?

    At the risk of polarizing folks, I ask that you bear with me for a second on this. His sexual orientation is none of my business just as much as my religious beliefs are none of his. Bottom line, he is a human being. A man. A soccer player.

    Media and society continue to talk about tolerance and steps towards greater awareness. Garbage. I understand the years and years of suffering many have experienced based on race, color, creed, sexual orientation and who knows what else in this country. Therein lies the problem. As a culture, Americans feel compelled to classify everyone and everything into a nice, neat package convenient enough for take away.

    In the end, the more we single out individuals and groups of individuals, the further away we get from true freedom and openness in our society. It is, in the end after all, who you are as a person, how you speak, how you act and the intentions you have that carry the day.

    Perhaps I am totally off base here. I just… don’t… get it.

    • wfjackson3 - May 27, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      I agree with the notion of what you are saying, but I find it impractical. In the US we have a very strong tension between the ideals of community and the ideals of individualism. It is a part of who we are. I see that at play in some of what you are saying.

      From a practical standpoint, if bigots are going to classify people and try to discriminate against them, then it sort of forces the hand of those that want to stop bigots. If bigots single out homosexuals and try to discriminate, then the tolerant amongst us are left with little choice but to support homosexuals as a group seeking equality.

  2. mdac1012 - May 27, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    If he’s a happier person and feels better about his life because he came out and that translates into being a better player on the pitch, then good for him. But can we all move on now, he is NOT Jackie Robinson.

    The fact is nothing is going to change in the world because a soccer player, who the vast majority of Americans never heard of and couldn’t pick out of a lineup if their lives depended on it, announced he was gay.

    In this country if you say the initials MLS to someone, more people are going to think you are talking about the Multiple Listing Service real estate site than are talking about Major League Soccer. So I really don’t think this is going to have any significant impact on anything, even though MLS would like to make you think this is an Earth shattering event.

    • geojock - May 28, 2013 at 8:47 AM

      I think it is news-worthy and historic although a bit over hyped, in true ESPN form. It is a milestone, but I agree for anyone to compare to Jackie Robinson completely wrong and borderline offensive.

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