With U.S. Soccer's annual January training camp around the corner, speculation has increased about the possibility of Robbie Rogers getting called up to the national team.
There's a strong case to be made that Rogers deserves a look. In just half a season, Rogers quickly adjusted to the fullback position, ascending to become one of the league's top left backs. Combining a natural instinct to go forward with defensive tenacity, Rogers also has the physical tools Jurgen Klinsmann requires out of a modern fullback.
Robbie Rogers potential USMNT left back? Outstanding season with LA. Imagine image of him competing at Russia WC pic.twitter.com/6yoyMyCGTe— Alex Olshansky (@tempofreesoccer) December 18, 2014
At times, Rogers just blew by defenders, including the likes of DeAndre Yedlin.
It's not as if the U.S. is overflowing with options at the moment. DaMarcus Beasley just retired from the national team. Fabian Johnson plays left back but is preferred as a midfield option.
Post World Cup, Greg Garza has been the only one to establish himself at the position. Despite being a favorite of Klinsmann, Timmy Chandler hasn't done much to solidify a spot. Tim Ream? An ok defender, playing ok for an ok Championship side.
All things considered, you would expect Rogers to appear on the training ground that's essentially in his backyard come January.
But an excerpt from Rogers' new book Coming Out To Play reveals information that could compromise his national team hopes.
"It's funny. You would think that 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 considering going to residency in Florida when I was 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."- Robbie Rogers, Coming Out to Play
If you've read the book, you would know Rogers is referring to Jurgen Klinsmann, which is all the more strange considering they have a relationship going back to Robbie's teen years playing for PDL side Orange County Blue Star. Robbie trained with Jurgen, who was an important mentor, someone Rogers looked up to for guidance. He even used to drive Rogers to Galaxy games.
So why has there been no contact from Klinsmann? The last public remarks Klinsmann made regarding Rogers were in October of 2013, when he said Rogers wasn't in the national team picture soon after signing with the Galaxy.
Is this another case of Jurgen being German? "Ok Robbie is gay, that's great, so what" I muttered to myself in a thick Klinsi accent, pondering if he'd said something similar inside his Manhattan Beach home at one point. Maybe the letters never got to Klinsmann?
Does Klinsmann think Rogers is mentally weak, in the same manner he decided Landon Donovan was mentally weak? More worryingly, will Klinsmann take Rogers' words personally, as another one of Landon's buddies taking a shot at the German, similar to how Mike Magee famously mocked Jurgen's son on Twitter?
Or does he believe Rogers simply isn't good enough for a call up?
Frankly, I'm not buying the notion that Rogers is mentally weak. You don't become the first openly gay athlete in America and succeed without challenging yourself. Rogers has also tried to make in Europe (twice), another career move not desirable for the meek. These are goals that take mental strength as well as courage.
You could argue Robbie had trouble focusing on the field before he came out, but as we all discovered, there was a legitimate reason for that. (It's worth mentioning Rogers was called up during the Klinsmann era before coming out)
And if Rogers didn't pass Jurgen's mental-tough-guy-purity-test while he in the closet, even die-hard Magee fans would admit Robbie has been a different player this season. As the 2014 season progressed, Robbie worked up an appetite and a desire for the game Galaxy fans had not seen before. For the first time in his career, Rogers is playing soccer as a free man without any distractions, and it's showing on the field. His play speaks for itself.
The one complaint you could levy about Rogers is he still doesn't have a lot of experience at the position. That being said, it wouldn't hurt Klinsmann to give Robbie some exposure at the international level.
Rogers has earned the right to another shot.