Sounders FC's road game Sunday against the Los Angeles Galaxy could feature the debut of Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay athlete to play in a game in major American team sports.
The Sounders might get a front-row seat to sports history on Sunday.
Their opponent, the Los Angeles Galaxy, signed Robbie Rogers after acquiring the midfielder’s MLS rights Saturday in a trade with the Chicago Fire. The move paves the way for Rogers to be the first openly gay male athlete to play in a game in major American team sports, and his debut could come against Seattle in an 8 p.m. game at The Home Depot Center.
The Galaxy had yet to receive Rogers’ international clearance, which is required to add the 26-year-old to the active roster, but coach Bruce Arena said in a news conference the team hopes to have it by kickoff.
“If that’s the case, I anticipate he’ll be part of our 18-man roster,” Arena added, indicating that Rogers would likely be on the bench.
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The news has been followed closely by the Sounders, who also had interest in acquiring Rogers, according to coach Sigi Schmid.
Rogers, who has a couple former teammates in Seattle, played for Schmid in Columbus during the 2007-08 season, and the two exchanged text messages Saturday morning.
“I hope to see you Sunday,” Rogers wrote.
“I hope to see you, but not on the field,” Schmid responded, jokingly.
Rogers came out in February, while he was playing in England, with an announcement that coincided with him stepping away from the game. NBA center Jason Collins came out late last month, after the regular season had ended.
Rogers ended his brief retirement in April when he began training with the Galaxy. Fast forward a month, and his transcendent return to the field is imminent.
“I think it’s all about him as a soccer player at this stage,” Schmid said. “It’s about him getting back on the field, him playing well, him getting back to the level where he was a national-team player, and I think that’s what the focus has got to be. Everybody in their personal lives has things that make them different or are unique to them in one way or another, but I think the focus on the soccer field is what you do on the soccer field.
“For me, I’m happy that Robbie is back. I’m happy that he’s playing. I think he shouldn’t have stepped away because of the off-the-field thing — I don’t think anybody should step away for an off-the-field situation if they can stay on the field — but it’s a great opportunity for him to make a statement.”
The Sounders have been in strong support of Rogers from afar since he came out. The team put together a video shortly after the announcement with words of encouragement from players and coaches.
Midfielder Brad Evans was teammates with Rogers in Columbus and said in April that Rogers would eventually be back.
“He’s a guy where everything we did and everything that he did revolved around soccer,” Evans said. “You don’t just give up something like that in the snap of a finger if it’s not for a good reason. Hopefully he’s back in it and can move forward.”
Similar sentiments were expressed in February by Seattle defender Marc Burch, who played with Rogers in 2005 at the University of Maryland.
“He’s my friend and I support him in whatever he does,” Burch said upon Rogers’ coming out. “I’m proud that he has been able to get this off his chest. Hopefully he can come back and play soccer now. That’s what we all want him to do.”
• Midfielder Steve Zakuani didn’t travel with the team to Los Angeles and will miss a fifth straight game with a groin strain.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org