CARSON, Calif. – Robbie Rogers said the LA Galaxy left much to be desired in 2013.
“I felt like we didn’t live up to our potential,” he said after preseason training Tuesday.
He wasn’t looking in a mirror when he made that statement to reporters, but he might as well have been. The Galaxy certainly had their share of disappointments in their quest for a third consecutive MLS Cup, and Rogers might have been at the top of the list.
The veteran midfielder, who turns 27 on May 12, came to the Galaxy with considerable fanfare. It was last January when the former Columbus Crew standout announced he was gay and, four months later, came out of retirement to join the two-time defending league champions. His rights were acquired from the Chicago Fire for Mike Magee, who went on to become the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Rogers, in contrast, struggled to say the least. He finished with just one assist in 16 appearances in all competitions (including 11 starts) and was beset with a number of nagging injuries, including a persistent one to his left hamstring followed by a stomach infection.
But here he is in 2014 refreshed, ready to go and eager to show what he can do – or used to.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I feel great. I worked hard in the offseason. I feel like maybe that work, especially the fitness … I think I can feel it.
“I’ve actually never felt this sharp coming into preseason.”
Coaches and teammates agreed this is a critical year for Rogers, once named to the league’s Best XI in 2008.
“Certainly it’s big,” striker Robbie Keane said. “It’s big for a lot of players. Robbie, last year getting back into things and playing again, I think he’ll benefit.
“This year we’ll see a stronger Robbie, with a good preseason behind him. He’ll be a lot stronger; it’s only going to help the team.”
Added head coach Bruce Arena, “I think it’s an important year for him. I think it’s an important year for a lot of players, not just Robbie. Robbie’s had an outstanding preseason to date, four good days.
“I feel good about that.”
Rogers admitted last season was an often trying experience. He said it was only toward the end of the season when he started to feel comfortable on the field.
“I think in the beginning of the season it was very much overwhelming,” he said. “Then I had a number of injuries. After that I was kind of just ignoring people, coming in every day to training. But once I got some proper consecutive weeks of training under my belt I started to feel better.
“I feel really great right now, more like this is my home. I’m comfortable. I hope to keep improving.”