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TFC 2013

Robbie Rogers Should Start Over with Toronto FC

Robbie Rogers

 

 

After weeks of silence, the former Crew winger has gone public in two interviews. In press published yesterday with the Guardian and NY Times, Rogers tries to explain his decision to come out as gay and to retire from professional football.

We should all take a moment to contemplate the monumental scale of this act. He’s just the third professional footballer ever to come out publicly. Moreover, if the talented 25 year old winger ever returns to the sport here, he’ll be the only openly gay athlete to be playing in a top flight North American sports league.

Living in downtown Toronto, one has to think a bit harder about how hard this revelation must have been for Rogers. In our more tolerant city,  the personal struggle might seem like something not so dramatic. In professional terms, however, it is an unprecedented and surprising move. Playing in the microscopically reported realm of English football, and the neanderthal context of the supporters’ culture, retirement must have seemed the only option.

Now, with these two interviews, Rogers seems to be opening the door to returning to football – but only in the MLS. Critics of Rogers’ past few seasons with the Crew or his injury-hampered sojourn in the UK, should contemplate how deeply Rogers was struggling with the lie he had lived since a boy.

He states that even after winning the MLS Cup with the Crew in 2008, he couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for celebration. That’s how great his disconnection was between his public and private self.  To cut him some slack, this issue has to have been a serious impediment to his game.

Freed of this constraint, according to his own words, he’s found a freedom and happiness he’s never known. He’s also stated an intention to ask Bruce Arena for a chance to practice with the LA Galaxy (he’s a native of LA). While I’m sure Rogers is dying to return to Southern California weather and the warmth of his supportive family, I really can’t think of a better city than ours for Rogers to renew his sporting career. Few places in North America would be as supportive of a guy trying to be the first openly gay pro athlete actively playing.

Kevin Payne and the TFC scouting department are out scouring the world searching for midfield and winger talent. If there’s a GM in the league who could figure out a deal to bring Rogers to Toronto, it would be Payne. Rogers would  actually be a good fit for the Payne/Nelsen design that we’ve seen coming together on the pitch.

At 25, he’s got some career left in football if he wants to play again. For a team and a player needing to start over, Rogers and Toronto FC should consider spending some time together this spring.

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