Matt Pacifici, a former Major League Soccer player, has come out publicly as gay in an Instagram post introducing the world to his boyfriend.

Pacifici, 25, told Outsports that since he was forced by injury to leave the sport he loves a couple of years ago, he has had time to reflect on his life, and has also fallen in love.

“When you’re in a relationship that makes you happy, and on social media you see people posting about their girlfriends, it feels weird not being a part of that,” Pacifici told Outsports. “You want them to know. This relationship is the one that makes me the most happy ever in my life.”

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What do you mean “I didn’t tell you?”

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The object of that affection is Dirk Blanchat, who like Pacifici grew up in Charlotte, but who now lives in New York City. Pacifici said Blanchat is also coming out today.

Pacifici, a goalkeeper, played college soccer at Wake Forest for one season before transferring to Davidson. There he earned All-American status while finishing his career as Davidson’s all-time career leader in saves.

He wasn’t drafted by an MLS team, but was eventually picked up and signed as a third-string goalkeeper by the Columbus Crew in 2016.

It was during a Crew practice his first season that his career took a turn for the absolute worst. Attempting to recover a ball during a practice he was accidentally kicked in the forehead by a teammate. Sitting in the locker room minutes later he suddenly didn’t know where he was.

For months he felt strange and was unable to play or practice. He traveled around the country talking to any doctor or specialist who would see him. Ultimately he was diagnosed with postural tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, which makes the person feel dizzy due to a jump in heart rate every time they stand up from a lying-down position. As a soccer goalie, that’s an untenable condition.

The diagnosis ended his soccer career.

Until then, Pacifici hadn’t considered the possibility of coming out even to the people around him. While Robbie Rogers had blazed a trail as an openly gay man in professional soccer, Pacifici felt even his story didn’t exactly apply. Rogers was an established star when he came out. Pacifici was a third-string player just trying to land a spot on a team. He just didn’t believe that coming out would do anything to help his career, and he was afraid it could possibly hurt it.

“Playing the part of the straight professional athlete was much more important to me at the time than being true to myself,” Pacifici said.

It’s easy to understand. Like so many elite athletes, Pacifici had thought about becoming a professional soccer player since he was 4. He didn’t want anything to potentially get in the way of living his dream.

‘The more people who come out, the easier it will be for other people to follow.’

Now he’s not sure how his teammates would have reacted. He sees the efforts being put forth by MLS, its clubs and various athletes. He has also seen the reaction to the coming out of Collin Martin, a player who like Pacifici isn’t a household name, but seems to be thriving in the league after coming out.

Pacifici is the fifth current or former MLS player to come out publicly: Rogers, Martin, Matt Hatzke and David Testo. He hopes by adding his voice to the conversation, he will help make it easier for the next guy.

“The more people who come out,” he said, “the easier it will be for other people to follow.”

You can follow Matt Pacifici on Instagram @matthewpacifici, or on Twitter @MattPacifici. You can also email him at [email protected].