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Rogers Joins Galaxy, Becomes 1st Openly Gay Athlete in Pro Sports

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(Courtesy: MGN Online)

By Jill Martin, CNN

(CNN) — Robbie Rogers was introduced as the newest member of the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, making him the first openly gay male athlete to compete in Major League Soccer and in any American professional team sport and ending his brief retirement.

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

Provided the Galaxy receives his international transfer certificate by Sunday, Rogers could make his debut as soon as that night against the Seattle Sounders FC at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California.

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.”

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. Last month, 12-year NBA veteran Jason Collins announced he was gay. Collins, however, has not played a game since he made the announcement. He is currently a free agent.