Ex-MSL star Rogers may be next active openly gay player

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comMay 1, 2013 

One day after NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first openly gay player active in a major men’s United States sports league, former Major League Soccer star Robbie Rogers might have started down the path to become the second.

Rogers, who retired from professional soccer in February after revealing that he is gay, trained as a “special guest” of the Los Angeles Galaxy on Tuesday.

After the session Rogers tweeted that he had “a great first day back,” and he thanked Galaxy coach Bruce Arena for allowing him to train with the team “to get back in shape.”

He also told CNN “there is a good chance I might come back to (soccer), but I need a few months to chill out.”

The news was welcomed by Seattle Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid, who has known Rogers since Rogers was a child growing up in Southern California. Schmid also coached him with the Columbus Crew in 2007-2008.

“I think it’s great for Robbie,” Schmid said after Sounders training Tuesday. “I know he feels much happier now that he’s been able to express himself, and I hope his comeback goes well. I hope he doesn’t play for the Galaxy; I’d rather see him play for us, but I think his rights belong to Chicago.”

Schmid was asked whether the Sounders

will talk to the Fire about acquiring those rights.

“We’ll see,” Schmid said. “I don’t think it’s at that stage yet, but we’ll see.”

Chicago received Rogers’ rights in trade with Columbus shortly before Rogers announced he was stepping away from the game.

“We made that move because we believe Robbie Rogers is a very good player,” Chicago coach Frank Klopas said on the Fire website. “That hasn’t changed.”

Schmid said teams across MLS are likely to share that opinion.

“When he played for me in 2008 he was Best XI,” Schmid said. “There’s not a lot of Best XI wingers that are out there … at that age (25) and that ability. He’s got caps. He’s got experience at the international level. He’s played in the Olympics. He’s been involved in qualifying matches. There’s always a need for a player like that and of that quality.”

Schmid doesn’t believe Rogers’ sexual orientation will affect his playing career.

“I think the league is accepting of that,” Schmid said. “I think your sexual preference is not something that should determine how good you are as a player or your abilities as a player.

“When he’s on the soccer field, that’s all that matters; how he does as a soccer player.”

That opinion was echoed by Sounders midfielder Brad Evans, who was a teammate of Rogers at Columbus and who has publicly voiced his support since Rogers’ original announcement.

“From day one I never thought it was a reason to leave, but it’s not my situation. Everybody deals with it differently,” Evans said Tuesday. “Everything that he did revolved around soccer. You don’t just give up something like that in the snap of a finger if it’s not for a good reason. Hopefully, he’s back in it and can move forward.”

ADDED TIME

The playing status of midfielder Steve Zakuani, forward Obafemi Martins, and defenders Djimi Traore, Marc Burch and Patrick Ianni remains unsettled as the team prepares for its league match Saturday at Philadelphia. However, Schmid clarified that Zakuani’s health problem involves a hamstring and is unrelated to a blood test he had undergone Monday. … Sounders U-23 meets Doxa Italia of Manhattan Beach, Calif., in a U.S. Open Cup first-round match at 7 p.m. May 14 at Sunset Chevrolet Stadium in Sumner.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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