121814_isi_rogersrobbie_mlsdb12072014147 David Bernal/isiphotos.com
23 For January Camp

Robbie Rogers Is Ready to Return to National Team

The 27-year-old left back is the second name on our list of players who deserve a call-up to the U.S. national team camp next month. ASN contributing editor Brooke Tunstall explains why.
BY Brooke Tunstall Posted
December 18, 2014
10:25 AM
Editors note: A group of ASN staffers have compared notes, argued, arm-wrestled, and ultimately decided on a 23-man roster for the January U.S. national team camp. We will be unveiling our roster in the coming weeks and crafting arguments for every name on our list.

AS MOST FANS of American soccer know, DaMarcus Beasley retired from international duty this week after a distinguished career in U.S. colors that led to playing in four World Cups and more than 120 caps.

But Run DMB’s national team retirement leaves a gaping hole at left back, particularly among the U.S.-based players who will make up the bulk of the roster for the annual January camp. No player has earned the right to fill that spot more the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers.

Rogers, 27, has much in common with Beasley. Both were Best XI attacking midfielders at a young age (21 in 2008 in Rogers’ case) and both were dropped back to the defensive line to take advantage of both their natural athleticism and attacking skill going forward.

Rogers made the switch late this spring at the behest of Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “He’s still learning the position,” Arena told reporters the day before MLS Cup earlier this month, “but he has all the capabilities to be a very good left back, and not just for the Galaxy. He’s athletic, he’s very good pushing into the attack, and defensively he’s getting better almost every time he goes out there.”

To wit, the Galaxy tied with D.C. United for the league’s stingiest defense then posted three straight shutouts in the playoffs. That, of course, is not all because of Rogers but despite learning a new position on the fly, Rogers unfamiliarity with the position was never exposed to the point of becoming a weakness. In MLS Cup, he was so solid that the New England Revolution’s high-octane offense mostly attacked up the middle or on the opposite flank.

Ask yourself this: If not Rogers from MLS’ left back choices, then who? The Revs' Chris Tierney had a solid postseason and has a sweet left foot. But athletically he’s no match for Rogers and sometime struggles with MLS attackers. If he can’t handle them, how’s he going to do at the international level?

The Rapids' Chris Klute showed great potential in 2013 but seemed to come back down to earth this past season. While he’s likely worth another look in a January camp, his form this season was nowhere what it was a year ago. Sporting’s Seth Sinovic is a solid MLS soldier but offers nowhere near the upside of Rogers.

It may be damning with faint praise, but Rogers is the best of the MLS left back lot. Then there’s this: He already has considerable international experience. He grew up in the U.S. youth national team system and was a 2008 Olympian with the Under-23 national team and has been a part of two Gold Cup squads. He even scored the first goal for the U.S. after Jurgen Klinsmann took over in 2011. He may be new to left back but he won’t be overwhelmed by the moment.

Finally, there’s this: The dude is in an amazing place mentally.

Consider that most of what he accomplished in his career he did while carrying the emotional burden of keeping his sexuality hidden. Now freed from that secret, he’s at peace emotionally and that has carried over to his play on the field. After the Galaxy’s MLS Cup win he told reporters how much more he was able to enjoy this win than the one he helped the Columbus Crew win six years earlier—when he was still in the closet.

Rogers is an easy choice to join Tesho Akindele in the January camp.

Brooke Tunstall is an American Soccer Now contributing editor and ASN 100 panelist. You can follow him on Twitter.

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