April 30 (Reuters) - A day after NBA center Jason Collins came out as the first gay athlete actively playing in one of the top U.S. professional leagues, gay soccer player Robbie Rogers took a step towards joining him.
Rogers, a former United States national team winger, came out in February with an announcement that also included his decision to step away from the game.
On Tuesday, however, Rogers trained with Major League Soccer’s (MLS) L.A. Galaxy.
Rogers had unsuccessful stints in England with Leeds United and Stevenage before saying he wanted to “discover myself away from football.”
The 25-year-old, who has 18 caps for the U.S., accepted an invitation from Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena to train with the team, which posted pictures of Rogers in action on their social media sites.
Californian Rogers made his name in MLS with the Columbus Crew but under league rules, his rights would be held by the Chicago Fire if he was to return to play.
Chicago head coach Frank Klopas told the team’s website on Tuesday that they would be interested in signing Rogers.
“The only thing I can tell you is he’s a very good player and the first option is to always look to bring him to our team if he decides to play,” said Klopas.
“It’s great that he’s back into it. He’s a young man with a lot of years left and it’s something he loves doing. You can never get that back when its past.”
Klopas said the Galaxy did not approach the Fire about Rogers’ rights.
“At some point I‘m sure they will. For us, he’s a very good player. We’d like to have him here with us,” he said.
Regardless of his potential return, Rogers has already made his impact off the field and, on Tuesday, National Basketball Association (NBA) free agent Collins, noted on in a Sports Illustrated article that Rogers “already blazed a trail.”
The report said Rogers phoned Collins while driving to the Galaxy and said: “It feels a little weird to congratulate you for being honest.”
Galaxy’s Landon Donovan, the all-time top U.S. scorer welcomed Rogers back to the game.
”My opinion is that Robbie is an inspiration to all of us as human beings. I think that he’s paving the way for not only gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual people and athletes, but for all of us to be okay with who we are.
“He’s paved the way for who we all heard about yesterday in the NBA coming out.” (Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue)