Football - Openly gay Rogers breaks barrier by playing in MLS game

It was pure pleasure for Major League Soccer's Robbie Rogers, who broke another barrier for gay athletes when he became the first openly gay male to compete in a major U.S.


professional team sport.

The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder was greeted by cheers from a crowd of nearly 25,000 in Carson, California, when he entered as a substitute in the 77th minute with his team leading the visiting Seattle Sounders 4-0.

"No pressure at all," Rogers told reporters after the hallmark moment, which came a day after he joined the Galaxy. "I got to totally enjoy myself and take it all in."

The 26-year-old Rogers, who was on the U.S. team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, joined the Galaxy less than a month after National Basketball Association veteran Jason Collins became the first active athlete from the major U.S. men's pro sports leagues to come out publicly as gay.

Collins, however, is a free agent and has not played since his announcement after the 2012-13 NBA regular season, leaving it up Rogers to make the on-field breakthrough.

"I won't ever forget tonight! I love my new home," Californian Rogers said on Twitter after the game.

Rogers, who had only five touches after being sent in to play, was competing professionally for the first time since December, when he played for Stevenage of England's third-tier league while on loan from second-tier English team Leeds.

In February, after parting with Leeds United, Rogers posted an emotional letter on his blog page in which he revealed he was gay. He wrote about the emotional toll of keeping his sexual orientation secret and said he would "step away" from soccer.

"Earlier today I was really nervous," he told reporters. "OK, this is a soccer game. I've done this a million times. But then obviously I know, I'm not naive, I know people are watching.

"It was really perfect," Rogers said. "We won, which is most important. My family was here, my friends. My grandparents.

"I've kind of been on this huge journey trying to figure out my life. And now I'm back here. I think I'm kind of where I'm supposed to be."

The moment, which brought a big smile to Rogers as he took his position, held special meaning for many.

"Many years from now most people won't remember the score of this game. But they'll remember when he stepped on the field," former Galaxy executive Alexi Lalas, now an ESPN soccer analyst, told the Los Angeles Times.

"That's cool. That's important."

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