CARSON, Calif. – Personally and professionally, it’s been a crazy year for Robbie Rogers. The LA Galaxy midfielder readily admits it as such, but now as he looks ahead to 2014, he’s hoping for greater stability in both facets.
In January 2013, Rogers drew international attention by coming out as gay. Three months later in April, the 26-year-old began training with the Galaxy in an effort to return to soccer shape and consider a return to the sport. Finally, in late May, Rogers’ return to MLS was complete when his MLS rights were acquired by the Galaxy from the Chicago Fire in exchange for Mike Magee. In his first season in MLS since 2011, Rogers’ form was up and down as he made 16 appearances across all competitions tallying a single assist in 11 starts.
For all the focus on his play, Rogers admits that this year has been far more significant to him than anything that transpired on the soccer field.
“Emotionally, it’s been a rollercoaster. It’s been amazing to be back with the Galaxy, I mean with the option they’ve given me and how supportive the guys have been in the locker room has been something that a year ago I could never have imagined,” Rogers told reporters on Tuesday in the team’s final media availability before the offseason. “Without being too hard on myself and disappointed with the result at the end of the season I think if I would look back at this time last year, I more than exceeded my expectations for overcoming mostly that fear of thinking that I could be an athlete and I could be gay at the same time. Now, hopefully I can just move forward and just be a soccer player.”
Returning to the form that made him a star with the Columbus Crew and a U.S. international remains the final hurdle for the 26-year-old midfielder, who dealt with a series of injuries throughout his time with the Galaxy.
A nagging left hamstring injury as well as a stomach infection limited Rogers’ effectiveness well into the fall as the midfielder found himself out of the squad for much of the final two months of the season. However, Rogers began to round into form during the final week of October with a pair of solid showings in the Galaxy’s CONCACAF Champions League finale at Isidro Metapán and their final regular season match against Seattle Sounders FC. The midfielder also earned a start in LA’s 1-0 Western Conference Semifinal Series second leg victory over Real Salt Lake last week.
In the team’s second leg defeat to Real Salt Lake last week, Rogers was one of the Galaxy’s more active players on the field, but was unable to produce the all-important goal, despite generating a team-leading five shots in 75 minutes of action, that LA needed as they crashed out of the postseason. The frustration of that match still remains with Rogers, who is pledging to progress in the offseason.
“There are so many things I need to improve on. Finishing and getting better crosses in and all that stuff, but I felt that as I got back from injuries and as the games went on I felt like I got better and better. There’s a lot of work I need to put in this offseason,” said Rogers. “I won’t really take this time off. I’ll stay fit and continue to do things to improve, but I still want to get back to where I was before so there’s a lot of work I need to do.”
Rogers’ rigorous offseason plan could pay major dividends for an LA coaching staff that is expecting the midfielder to make major strides next season.
"[Rogers] has to be better next year. He has to start the year better and position himself to play. He got his feet back on the ground this year, but the final product has to be better for Robbie," said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena.
Added associate head coach Dave Sarachan: “The Robbie Rogers that we remember was a real threat going forward and getting behind the defender, getting consistency in service. And at the end of a 90 minute match just having something to show for it whether it’s a goal or an assist or a threatening play. I think that Robbie didn’t quite have that consistency this year. Next year all the components of fitness and technical confidence need to be ramped up.”
If his production can increase, the Galaxy may have a viable third option in the attack which was an aspect of the team that was lacking this year. In 2013, the Galaxy scored 53 goals in 34 regular season games with forwards Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane combining for almost half of those, scoring 26 times and adding 20 assists between them while no other player that finished the season with the club scored more than four.
For LA to return to the summit of MLS in 2014, Rogers is hoping to step into that role.
“I think for the Galaxy, for myself, I think to really be successful I think we need more guys to contribute,” said Rogers. “I know I can be one of those guys and that’s important.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com