FOX Soccer Exclusive
Rogers wants to get back to normal
The cadence and the strain of a week on the road provides Robbie Rogers with familiar comfort in the middle of his currently chaotic life.
Rogers has embraced the responsibilities created by his decision to come out in February and return to the soccer field with LA Galaxy last weekend, but he also yearns for the mundane rhythm cherished by athletes accustomed to performing at a high level.
If he needed a reminder of the occasional disruptions his peers face in their persistent search for repetition, he certainly received it over the past few days as he embarked upon the sort of trip only required in American soccer: a Sunday night game in southern California followed by a Wednesday night affair in Cary, N.C. and a Sunday afternoon scorcher in Foxborough, Mass.
Most of his teammates will scoff at the crowded itinerary – Galaxy coach Bruce Arena and a handful of regular starters even skipped the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup defeat to the Carolina RailHawks in midweek to prepare for the staggering 5-0 thrashing against the Revolution – and the corresponding physical demands placed upon them.
Not the eager Rogers. He welcomed the opportunity to establish a bit of normalcy after a surreal few days surrounding his landmark appearance as the first openly gay male to play in a major American professional sport.
"I forgot what it was like, being in the hotel with the guys and doing all that stuff," Rogers said after completing a training session at Harvard Univ. on Saturday. "It's actually more relaxing than being at home for me at the moment just because of all of the craziness. Now I've had some time to sit on my bed and chill. It's been really nice."
The time on the field helps a bit, too. Rogers spent most of the past 18 months trying to work his way onto the field with English clubs Leeds United and Stevenage. He will receive more opportunities with the Galaxy, but he must first shake off the inevitable rust and work his way toward proper match fitness and sharpness.
Arena plans to usher the process along carefully as Rogers finds his footing again after a lengthy layoff from first-team action. The veteran boss doled out minutes carefully over the course of the week (65 minutes combined in the three matches, including a 24-minute spell to cap off the week) to ease Rogers into the squad without risking a potential setback.
"We're just going to get him involved as much as we can over the next month," Arena said. "Hopefully, as we hit the month of July, he's ready to play on a regular basis."
The progress made over the next few weeks will determine whether Rogers follows the mooted itinerary or moves along a different and perhaps more gradual path toward top form. Either avenue will bolster the Galaxy as the two-time defending MLS Cup champions ramp up their pursuit of a third straight title. He offers a potentially vital option in the wide areas, a former Best XI player capable of providing quality service and stretching the field horizontally to creating additional operating room in midfield.
Aside from a few glimpses here and there during his three substitute appearances, Rogers has not hit those heights just yet. He said he plans to work diligently over the next few weeks and months to hone his fitness and reach the point where he can supply the added dimension Arena sought when the veteran manager agreed to send Mike Magee to Chicago in exchange for his rights.
"I don't feel like I'm that close," Rogers said. "It's going to take some time, some proper training, a lot of work after training over the next few weeks to run and get stronger. It'll take time. How long? I'm not sure."
Uncertainty permeates several segments of Rogers' life at the moment with the furore surrounding his return to the field still fresh. The external complications and demands will likely diminish over the next few months as the sporting world adjusts to his station and moves on to other topics, but he must still manage them in the short- and medium-term.
"For obvious reasons, there's been a lot of attention," Galaxy forward Landon Donovan said. "I think he's proud to take it upon himself to spread his word and his message to help others. But, deep down, he just wants to get back to being a soccer player again. He wants to get back to training and playing and get back to being his normal self. I think we're all ready for that, too."
Until that moment arrives, Rogers can lean on his family, his friends and his teammates for support and relish those fleeting instances when monotony emerges once more.