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Robbie Rogers takes field as 1st openly gay male player in U.S. pro sports match

By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Jill Martin, CNN
updated 5:34 PM EDT, Mon May 27, 2013
Swimmer Ian Thorpe, seen here in 2004 with one of his five Olympic gold medals, told an Australian news outlet that he is gay in an interview that aired on Sunday, July 13. Click through to see other openly gay athletes. Swimmer Ian Thorpe, seen here in 2004 with one of his five Olympic gold medals, told an Australian news outlet that he is gay in an interview that aired on Sunday, July 13. Click through to see other openly gay athletes.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Galaxy provide historic moment as Robbie Rogers takes field for 13 minutes in rout
  • Rogers becomes the first openly gay male athlete to compete in Major League Soccer
  • Former winger for U.S. national team came out in February as he announced retirement
  • NBA player Jason Collins has not played since he came out last month

(CNN) -- Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a pro American sporting match Sunday when he took the field for Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy during a rout of the Seattle Sounders.

Not to be overlooked in the landmark moment is Rogers' prescience. In remarks to ESPN before the game, he said, "I'm hoping I can come on and it's 4-0 and I can just enjoy myself."

Which is exactly what happened. With 13 minutes remaining in the game, Rogers came in as a substitute for midfielder Juninho with the Galaxy up by four goals.

Emphatic applause erupted from the stands at the Home Depot Center.

Before the game, Los Angeles native Jason Collins, a pro basketball player who announced last month that he was gay, tweeted Rogers to say good luck.

Rogers said after the game that the experience was "perfect, really perfect."

"The first training session the Galaxy ever had on the Home Depot Center pitch, I was here training," he said. "I've kind of been on this huge journey to kind of figure out my life, and now I'm back here, I think kind of where I'm supposed to be."

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Rogers was introduced as the newest member of the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, making him the first openly gay male athlete in Major League Soccer and ending his brief retirement.

April 2013: Rogers on why he came out
Ex-soccer star: Gay but lived stereotype

The Galaxy signed Rogers to a multiyear contract after acquiring him from the Chicago Fire, which held his rights, in exchange for midfielder Mike Magee.

Rogers, a former winger for the U.S. national team, had retired from soccer in February at age 25, announcing then that he is gay. However, he still had the passion for the game. He trained with the Galaxy for about a month before making the comeback official.

"After I finally got in here, everything was completely normal, as it should be," Rogers said at his introductory news conference. "Getting back on the pitch was amazing."

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But even though he still enjoys the game, deciding to come back was not easy for Rogers, who said he was afraid to share the secret about his sexual orientation for 25 years.

"I kept my secret because I thought I couldn't be both a soccer player and a gay athlete," Rogers said. "I figured it out that it's not true, but I felt that way. So I was afraid to put myself back into a situation where I felt like I was kind of an outcast or just different than people."

In his career, Rogers also has played for MLS club Columbus Crew from 2007 to 2011, winning the MLS Cup in 2008. He also briefly played for English club Leeds United.

Los Angeles head coach Bruce Arena believes that Rogers will make an impact on the field with his play.

"We've been searching for the last year or two for a player that has the skills to be a flank player, play wide and add a little speed to our club, take on players and a good crosser off the ball with both of his feet," Arena said. "He offers qualities that we've been looking for, so we're hopeful that in time, Robbie will demonstrate the kind of qualities that he has previously in this league."

Rogers isn't the only trailblazer for male gay athletes in American professional sports. Twelve-year NBA veteran Collins announced he was gay, but he has not played a game since he made the announcement. He is currently a free agent.

Opinion: When celebrities share secrets, good things happen

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