MLS: Rogers makes victorious Galaxy debut as openly gay athlete
CARSON, Calif. • Robbie Rogers just wants to go back to being a pro soccer player. First, though, he had history to make.
Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a U.S. professional league on Sunday night, making his Major League Soccer debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
He entered as a substitute in the 77th minute with the Galaxy leading the Seattle Sounders 4-0, which turned out to be the final score.
"I guess this is a historic thing, but for me it was just a soccer game," he said.
He received loud cheers from the crowd of 24,811 as he ran onto the pitch, with fans chanting his last name. Rogers ran by teammate Landon Donovan, who slapped his hand and patted him on the back as he took his position.
"Because of the nature of the way sports has been for so many years the macho culture that's been embraced by everybody it's of interest to everybody," Donovan said. "Now, hopefully, the hype about it is over and he can get back to being a soccer player, which is what he wants to do."
Rogers touched the ball a couple times in the closing minutes of the Galaxy's victory that ended Seattle's three-game winning streak. The 26-year-old midfielder hadn't played professionally since last year. He spent the last two seasons in England.
With the Galaxy owning a comfortable lead, head coach Bruce Arena was able to insert Rogers.
"No pressure at all," Rogers said. "I got to totally enjoy myself and take it all in."
He stopped to do a couple postgame TV interviews on the field before signing a few autographs for kids calling out to him from the stands.
Rogers retired from the sport in February, when he revealed in a post on his blog that he is gay. He has been training with the Galaxy since April at the invitation of Arena.
"In a lot of ways the easy part is over," Arena said. "Now the difficult part remains, which is getting him positioned to play. Our expectations for Robbie are not anything big in the near future. Hopefully, he'll get back to the way we think he can be."
Rogers' signing on Saturday was so recent that he wasn't listed in the game day program, which featured a picture of Mike Magee in the centerfold. Magee, the Galaxy's leading scorer and a fan favorite, was traded to his hometown Chicago Fire, which held Rogers' MLS rights.
Nerves began getting the best of Rogers in the hours before he left home for the stadium. Not because he was worried about the prospect of being the first openly gay male athlete to play, but because his soccer skills were rusty.
"I was like, 'Oh gosh,'" he said.
He called his sister for reassurance.
"I just needed to hear someone's voice," Rogers said. "We were talking about my dog. Just get my mind off things."
The loudest chants of "Robbie, Robbie" were for Robbie Keane, who had his first career three-goal game in MLS. His three goals, including two on penalty kicks, and another by Sean Franklin gave the Galaxy a 4-0 lead at halftime.
Keane's hat trick in a 44-minute span was the second-fastest in Galaxy history. The fastest occurred in 43 minutes in 2004 by Alejandro Moreno.
Keane scored three consecutive goals 10 minutes apart. His first in the 24th minute came on a right-footed shot from the center of the box into the bottom right corner of the goal following a corner.
Keane followed in the 34th minute, burying a penalty shot in the bottom right corner. He converted another penalty shot in the 44th minute, booting the ball into the bottom left corner.
The Galaxy's first goal came in the 12th minute when Franklin right-footed shot from close range into the center of the goal. Keane and Marcelo Sarvas had the assists.
Keane, the team captain from Ireland, and Omar Gonzalez will leave the Galaxy for international play. Keene is expected to miss the Galaxy's next two games and Gonzalez will miss the next three.
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