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.”