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Rogers returning as first openly gay active soccer player

The SportsXchange

U.S. national soccer player Robbie Rogers was one of America's most promising young players having won an NCAA title with Maryland in 2005. Three years later, he led the Columbus Crew to the MLS championship and was named one to the MLS XI as one of the top 11 stars in the league.

In February he thought he overcame his fears when he announced to the world he was gay.

"For the past 25 (years) I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations," Rogers wrote earlier this year. "Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams."

While declaring his sexuality, Rogers also decided to quit playing soccer. He thought the "circus" that would follow his coming out would outweigh any enjoyment he would have on the pitch.

That belief changed when Rogers recently spoke to a group of children in Portland and on Saturday, the MLS Galaxy will hold a news conference to introduce the 26-year-old as the newest member of its team.

He will be the first active openly gay player in Major League Soccer.

Rogers' impetus for wanting back on the pitch: According to USA Today, he had an epiphany to return to the game came when speaking to children at the Nike Be True LGBT Youth Forum in Portland in April.

"I seriously felt like a coward," he told USA TODAY Sports. "These kids are standing up for themselves and changing the world, and I'm 25, I have a platform and a voice to be a role model. How much of a coward was I to not step up to the plate?"

When announcing his sexuality, and his retirement earlier this year, Rogers told The Guardian he did not want to be part of a circus.

"Are people coming to see you because you're gay? Would I want to do interviews every day, where people are asking: 'So you're taking showers with guys -- how's that?'

"If you're playing well it will be reported as: 'The gay footballer is playing well.' And if you have a bad game it'll be: 'Aw, that gay dude ... he's struggling because he's gay.'"

Rogers has been working out with the Galaxy for a couple of weeks. He had no intention of returning to the sport, but besides missing playing, he believes he can be a role model for so many.

He reached out to Bruce Arena, coach of the Galaxy whom he had previously worked with, to see if he could train with the team.

Rogers also talked to his longtime friend, U.S. national star and Galaxy team member Landon Donovan about coming back.

"I sat down with Landon and just wanted to get an idea of what he thought of me coming back and what the atmosphere might be like," Rogers told USA Today. "Regardless of the perception, we both agreed that we are at our happiest when we are helping people. I believe I'm happy now because I know that I'm helping people.".

Rogers hopes to play for the U.S. national team in the 2014 World Cup -- and to be the role model for gay teens that he wished he'd had.

"I want to come back and be that voice, be that role model. There a lot to be excited about. It's awesome to be part of a movement that is changing our society."
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