Will Robbie Rogers take the field tonight?
The L.A. Galaxy's newest member has been cleared to play in tonight's game versus Seattle's Sounders FC, after Major League Soccer confirmed it had received an international transfer certificate. If he does play, he'll be the first openly gay male athlete to compete in the "big 5" professional sports in North America.
At a Saturday press conference where he was introduced, Galaxy manager Bruce Arena suggested Rogers needed a bit of work. In an interview with the Associated Press, he made it clear that the team didn't acquire Rogers to break social barriers, but to win games.
"We're not in this to pioneer social issues," Arena told the AP. "We're trying to win games as a team, and we're trying to produce the best team we can. Robbie has shown us that he has the potential to still be a real good player in our league, and that's what we're hopeful of."
He made a similar statement to the press on Saturday:
"We're hopeful that in time Robbie's going to demonstrate the kind of qualities he has previously in this league as a former all star and a member of a championship team as well."
Rogers, too, admitted that he's "definitely a bit rusty" in an interview with the Associated Press. Over the past two years, he's played intermittently for English clubs Leeds and Stevenage, but has been away from the game for 5 months or so.
Rogers announced both his retirement and his being gay in February, saying he didn't think it was possible to be both openly homosexual and a professional athlete. Several months later, he changed his mind, telling "USA Today" he felt "like a coward" for giving up the game.
Now that he's received clearance to play, Rogers is expected to be part of tonight's 18-man roster, Arena said. But he cautioned that it may take a while before he's regularly on the field.
"It's going to take time, and we're going to slowly build him into it," he said. "No great expectations in the early going. We'll need to give him a little bit of time."
Rogers has been practicing with the Galaxy for more than a month while the team negotiated his trade from the Chicago Fire, who held Rogers' MLS rights. And some fans, upset that the deal saw their star midfielder Mike Magee traded to Chicago, are awaiting Rogers' debut with high hopes.
Whenever he does take the field, he's likely to be the first openly gay male athlete to do so in the U.S.
An exciting future lies ahead, not only for me but for our society. instagram.com/p/Zv8Z1cp3Wh/— Robbie Rogers (@robbierogers) May 25, 2013