Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sad, But Not Surprising

In the wake of the retirement of USA veteran defender DaMarcus Beasley, I immediately thought of Robbie Rogers and his sterling play at left back for the Los Angeles Galaxy. 

It's well known also in SoCal soccer circles that Rogers knows J. Klinsmann from way back. Klinsmann helped guide Rogers at various points in his career, including recommending him as a player to the coach of Leeds in England back in 2012. Rogers, for his part, returned the favor in Klinsmann's debut as coach, scoring the lone USA goal to ensure the JK era did not begin with a loss.

I'm not the only one thinking that Rogers deserves a national team look at left back, either, if the word of that other Robbie - Keane - carries any weight. 

Truth is, though, JK wasn't very encouraging of Rogers' chances to get back on the USMNT squad when it was first announced that he would return to play with the Galaxy. He said Rogers "wasn't in the picture". 

Yet with the lack of depth at left back on the national team level, Rogers should merit consideration, I thought. I was gratified to see that Soccer America seemed to think so as well, ranking Rogers as a viable possibility. But the final sentence of the blurb assessing his chances brought me back to earth with a thud. 

"In his book Coming Out To Play, Rogers expressed regret that he did not hear from Klinsmann despite reaching out to him after he announced he was gay."

I wasn't surprised that JK would do that, even to a player that he had known for years, but it still seemed heartless. Bruce Arena, gruff and tough as they come, reached out to Robbie immediately after Rogers came out, expressing support and inviting him to train with the Galaxy. Arena hadn't even really been Rogers' direct coach (Arena observed youth national teams Rogers was on), but he still took the time to extend an offer to play. It was this invite that eventually led to Rogers returning to pro soccer. 

Here's the part in the book where Robbie explains what happened. 

It's funny. You would think with all the notes and messages and phone calls that came in I wouldn't notice the one that I didn't get. But there is one coach who had been an important mentor, who helped guide me throughout my career, and who I thought I'd hear from but didn't. He helped advise me when I was first considering going to residency in Florida, when I was in high school and later I had the good fortune to play for him on several occasions. It really saddened me that even after I wrote to him twice he was silent. I can't help but wonder why. I guess everyone has their own issues. 

Clearly, with the history Rogers details here, that "important mentor" has to be JK, who apparently ignored two direct messages from his former protege. That's pretty cold. He didn't have to give any national team hope to Robbie, but any version of "Hey, good luck, I've always thought you were a quality player and the rest doesn't matter," would have probably meant the world to Rogers. But he ignored him. Shabby. 

Or maybe, like JK famously said about communicating with Landon Donovan, he sent an email to the wrong address. Oh, wait, that's not possible when all one has to do is click "Reply". 

Why would JK disregard a message from Rogers? Could he be wary of any reaction from his macho German associates (like the reporter who said a gay player would be "impossible" in the Bundesliga?) Or is JK that selfish that he couldn't be bothered to answer? 

Either way, I'm not surprised. Disappointed anew, but not surprised. 

While it pisses me off also that Rogers was saddened by the hurtful silence of JK, I hope Rogers takes heart from the inspiration he's become to many.  

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