CARSON, Calif. — Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay man to play in a U.S. professional league when he made his debut with Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer on Sunday.
Rogers entered as a substitute in the 77th minute with the Galaxy leading the Seattle Sounders 4-0, which turned out to be the final score.
“I guess this is a historic thing, but for me it was just a soccer game,” Rogers said.
Nerves began getting the best of Rogers in the hours before he left home for the stadium, not because he was anxious about being the first openly gay player but because he was rusty after time out of the sport.
He called his sister for reassurance.
“I just needed to hear someone’s voice,” Rogers said. “We were talking about my dog. Just get my mind off things.”
He received loud cheers from the crowd of 24,811 as he ran onto the pitch, with fans chanting his name. Rogers ran by teammate Landon Donovan, who slapped his hand and patted him on the back as he took his position.
“Because of the nature of the way sports has been for so many years — the macho culture that’s been embraced by everybody — it’s of interest to everybody,” Donovan said. “Now, hopefully, the hype about it is over and he can get back to being a soccer player, which is what he wants to do.”
Rogers spent the past two seasons in England with Leeds United and a loan spell at Stevenage.
Initially he retired from the sport after coming out on a blog post in February, but has been training with the Galaxy since last month at the invitation of coach Bruce Arena.
“In a lot of ways the easy part is over,” Arena said. “Now the difficult part remains, which is getting him positioned to play. Our expectations for Robbie are not anything big in the near future. Hopefully, he’ll get back to the way we think he can be.”
The loudest chants of “Robbie, Robbie” were for Robbie Keane, who had his first hat trick for the Galaxy. His three goals, including two on penalties, and another by Sean Franklin gave the Galaxy a 4-0 lead at halftime.