Los Angeles Galaxy Soccer Player Robbie Rogers Strengthened by New Identity, Rebuilt Career

By Green, Nick | Pasadena Star-News, December 5, 2014 | Go to article overview

Los Angeles Galaxy Soccer Player Robbie Rogers Strengthened by New Identity, Rebuilt Career


Green, Nick, Pasadena Star-News


Los Angeles Galaxy defender Robbie Rogers is reveling in his newly liberated life off the field and revitalized career on it since coming out as gay almost two years ago.

Off the field, the Southern California native who grew up on the Palos Verdes Peninsula recently released his autobiography, "Coming Out To Play," which reveals his emotionally wrenching journey to come to terms with his homosexuality. Rogers, who came out two years ago, was raised in a staunchly Catholic family that initially did not approve of alternative lifestyle and plays in the macho world of team sports where homosexuality is not openly discussed.

On the field, Rogers - who is expected to start Sunday in the MLS Cup in Carson against the New England Revolution - switched this season from attacking midfielder to left back, a position that has finally showcased his untapped potential. Before joining the Galaxy, he had brief stints with a variety of clubs around the world, grappling with his identity as a gay man as he searched for a place of acceptance.

"It took me until this year to come to terms that I am gay," he said after a Galaxy practice Thursday at StubHub Center in Carson.

"A lot of us are people-pleasers because we're raised to think there's something wrong with us," he added. "We're taught that gay is not good. That then comes out on the field. I was not a confident person off the field because I'm closeted. And so for such a long time I felt there was something wrong with me.

"Now that I'm out, I still have to work through that stuff. People don't realize even after you come out you still have 25 years of dealing with these emotions and they don't just go away like that."

At 27, Rogers is still having first experiences most have in their teens. His first kiss, for instance, came at age 25.

"I couldn't have proper relationships with people because I was so afraid to open up to anyone and for people to really get to know me," he said. "I've come a long way.

"(Coming out) has changed every aspect of my life," he added. "I have real relationships now. Before, ... I would distance myself. I think that's why subconsciously I found myself playing in so many different places away from home."

Rogers worked in Florida at an elite U.S. Soccer training academy for promising teenage players. He lasted a year.

Then it was off to the University of Maryland, where he won a national championship. He left after his freshman year.

A lucrative professional contract at a Dutch club beckoned. Homesick and confused about his sexual identity, Rogers quit after a few months before returning to the United States and Major League Soccer.

Along the way, he showed flashes of the skill that attracted national team coaches and foreign clubs.

There was an MLS Cup in 2008 with the Columbus Crew and a clutch of 18 national team appearances that included some impressive displays and a couple of goals.

But depressed and plagued with recurrent injuries, Rogers found himself by January 2013 playing at a modest club in the third tier of English soccer, his once promising career seemingly winding down prematurely.

"I was really afraid," he said of his life until then. "I was afraid to give off any hint I was gay because I was so worried I wouldn't be accepted.

"Just always being raised in the sports world and hearing the most homophobic things, it didn't matter if there were people around me who were accepting of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. I wasn't ready for that. …

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