Robbie Rogers is better player after coming out
L.A. Galaxy defender is having a stellar year and was rewarded with a contract extension.
The Los Angeles Galaxy won the MLS Cup Final, beating the New England Revolution, 2-1, in overtime.
There are plenty of story lines that make their run to another championship the thing of fables. Landon Donovan's last pro soccer game ever. The Galaxy's MLS-best fifth title. All the babies Galaxy players had recently or are having soon.
Yet none resonate more powerfully on a social level than Robbie Rogers' return to soccer, his transformation into a fullback and ultimately this final achievement, winning the MLS Cup as an out gay man.
Today, Robbie Rogers' transformation as a soccer player is complete.
In his book, Rogers lamented that the trade sending him to the LA Galaxy in May of 2013 took longer and was more complicated than he had anticipated or was told it would be. That trade shipped the Galaxy's then-leading scorer Mike Magee to the Chicago Fire for Rogers. Magee went on to win the 2013 MLS MVP Award. That season ended early in the playoffs for Rogers and the Galaxy. The Fire seemed to be the big winners of the trade.
Rogers' 2014 season didn't start well. He was injured and his play never got jump-started. It seemed his career could end up getting lost if not for a change.
That change came over the summer when the Galaxy moved Rogers to fullback. There he blossomed. He grabbed hold of a starting spot and never let go. By late summer he had some people talking about Rogers making his way onto the US Men's National Team.
The Galaxy's trade for Rogers has now paid off in the franchise's record fifth MLS Cup title.
Today, he has quieted all doubters.
In the MLS Cup Final, Rogers started with a bang. In the first two minutes of the game he took a pass and dribbled the ball deep behind the Revolution defense, taking a shot that dribbled within feet of the goal before being cleared.
This is Rogers' second MLS Cup title - He won it all in 2008 with the Columbus Crew.
But none could be sweeter for Rogers than this. He is at the top of his game now finally playing as an openly gay man, sharing his true self with his friends, family, teammates and the world. When he was playing in England, he was so convinced an openly gay man couldn't make it in soccer that he retired. Robbie Keane even talked about the atmosphere in English soccer and the far more welcoming environment in MLS. Rogers arrived at the same truth and returned to the sport he had loved since childhood.
Yet Rogers has had to battle through far more than just his sexual orientation to get here. He has been plagued by injuries over the last few years. He has struggled to find a place on his team due to those injuries and his play. He has dealt with people - including myself - questioning the smarts of the trade by the Galaxy and whether Rogers would ever live up to the hopes he and so many others had for himself.
When any athlete - gay, straight or otherwise - starts a season, he has one goal in mind: A championship.
Today, he has achieved that goal.
It is meaningless that Rogers was replaced on the pitch at the start of overtime. He contributed throughout the 90 minutes of regulation - a late hit on him in the corner that left him on the ground for a minute may have been a key factor in replacing him. He hinted at such in the locker room after the game.
Anyone with reservations about an openly gay man negatively affecting a team because of his sexual orientation was quieted today. Rogers is the first publicly out male athlete to win a big-time team pro sports title in the United States, but he will not be the last.
Yet he isn't just an inspiration for LGBT athletes, coaches and fans, he should inspire anyone struggling to make in their sport, forced to go above and beyond to achieve their dreams.
Today, Robbie Rogers is their champion.