Robbie Rogers made his debut for the LA Galaxy when he subbed in for Juninho in the 77th minute.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Robbie Rogers made his historic comeback, D.C. sunk to deeper lows and a center back became a class forward in MLS Week 13:
1. Robbie Rogers rightfully commands the spotlight. Rogers made history late on Sunday night, but who knew he was so prophetic as well?
In a pregame interview with ESPN's Alexi Lalas about an hour and a half before Rogers broke a barrier that was begging to be smashed down for quite some time, Rogers said -- presumably jokingly -- that he wished he could enter into a 4-0 game, a pressure-free environment to make an easy return to the sport. Given that it was Rogers' night, perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise that his wish came entirely true.
With the Galaxy improbably leading an in-form Seattle Sounders side 4-0 as the clock turned from 76:38 to 76:39, Rogers ran onto the field to replace Juninho, grinning from ear-to-ear and marking his return to the sport following a weekend trade that landed him with his hometown LA Galaxy. As the first openly gay male to play a game in a major professional team sport in North America, Rogers' ascension to becoming a pioneer was complete.
Rogers' return was symbolic, poetic and seamless all at the same time. He did so against the team that employs Marc Burch and as a teammate of Colin Clark; Burch and Clark were suspended last season for using anti-gay slurs on the field. Rogers returned against Sigi Schmid, the coach in Columbus under whom he flourished as a player. And he ran onto the pitch to the sound of nothing but genuine applause -- his support system reaching just about every corner of the social media universe. With the game's result long decided, Rogers could bask in the spotlight for about 13 minutes while acclimating back to the field from which he thought he had to walk away.
Now that Rogers has completed his comeback and helped break down a barrier that will hopefully usher in a new era in professional sports, other on-field aspects of his move to Los Angeles will be dissected in the coming months. Was it really worth it for LA to part ways with Mike Magee, who had been so clutch in the last two MLS Cup runs and was the team's leading scorer this season? Can Rogers, who has played sparingly since leaving MLS following the 2011 season, reclaim the form that had him in the U.S. national team picture? The Galaxy organization, Rogers' new teammates and his nearby family will provide a nurturing environment in which Rogers can flourish, but he has some serious shoes to fill to make the trade truly worth it for LA and its MLS Cup three-peat aspirations.
On Sunday night though, all of that was secondary. Congratulations, thank you and welcome back, Robbie.
2. Dwayne De Rosario's omission raises eyebrows. Of all of the potential solutions to D.C. United's problems, benching a healthy De Rosario did not figure to sit at the top of the list. Yet there was De Rosario on Saturday night, his name left off the starting XI as he watched his club roll over for the Portland Timbers and fall to a league-worst 1-9-2. De Rosario was not injured, and while he may have said critical things out of frustration regarding the team's attacking woes, the comments did not seem to be anything detrimental to the point that he would need to be benched. Ben Olsen said it was a coach's decision to leave the 35-year-old De Rosario out of his lineup, but there seems to be more to the choice than a basic urge to change things up.
After the 2-0 loss to Portland, a despondent De Rosario expressed his frustration at being a scratch; he said the explanation he was given from the coaching staff was that he and Carlos Ruiz could not work together on the field. If that is indeed the case, it begs a pair of questions: Why did the club use resources and its place in the MLS allocation order to acquire Ruiz in the first place? And with everything going so wrong for D.C. season, why voluntarily anger and confound the club's on- and off-field leader?
It would seem like there would be little upside to benching De Rosario with the club struggling to score goals (six individual players have matched or exceeded D.C's six-goal output this season). This move was just one more thing to question in the nation's capital.
3. Jamison Olave displays versatility in crunch time. Olave is known for being many things: a physical specimen, MLS All-Star, hulking center back, Defensive Player of the Year. But being a finesse forward? As it turns out, the Colombian has that club in his bag, after all.
Olave's take down and touch off Jonny Steele's lofted, outside-of-the-cleat cross was one of the more unexpected moments of brilliance during a week in which two players -- Montreal's Marco Di Vaio and LA's Robbie Keane -- netted first-half hat tricks and which goalkeepers Sean Johnson, Tally Hall and Raul Fernandez turned in highlight-reel quality saves to preserve results for their respective sides.
For Olave to be so smooth in a last-gasp attacking role was a display of true skill, poise and composure. His first touch off the take down faked out Columbus Crew defender Kevan George, who had cleared an Olave header off the line moments earlier and expected Olave to try and hit the ensuing chance on frame. It also set Olave up perfectly for a left-footed blast that no goalkeeper was going to stop. Any forward in the league would yearn to come through in the manner Olave did, and with his fourth goal of the season, he not only set a new career high, but he introduced a new element to his already star-caliber arsenal.
4. Cup competitions take precedent. It figures to be a crazy, taxing week for all MLS teams except Toronto FC. Of the league's 19 clubs, 18 will compete in midweek matches, with the 100th edition of the U.S. Open Cup and second leg of the Canadian championship final taking attention from league play.
With 16 MLS teams entering the Open Cup in the third round, there are a number of storylines in play, and upsets at the hands of lower-division teams always figure to play a part. Two matchups to keep an eye on include clubs playing against their USL PRO affiliates, as New England squares off against the Rochester Rhinos and D.C. United plays the Richmond Kickers. The latter is especially noteworthy, as a pair of United players -- 17-year-old forward Michael Seaton and goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra -- have remained on loan with the Kickers for the competition. Former United castaway, forward Joseph Ngwenya, has been lighting it up for the Kickers recently as well. All three players could contribute to sending D.C. to its worst-case scenario: Compounding its league-worst record with an early Open Cup exit to what essentially amounts to its kid brother.
LA and Seattle, meanwhile, had to travel to North Carolina and Florida, respectively, following Sunday night's contest. And both have been open about expressing their anger at the exorbitant travel demands; the clubs have had to do more traveling than most considering their recent CONCACAF Champions League exploits. On the complete other end of the competition spectrum, four PDL teams -- the Des Moines Menace, FC Tucson, Ocean City Nor'easters and Reading United AC -- advanced over professional counterparts and have grand visions in mind while eyeing spots in the round of 16.
The tournament always churns out some unusual results, most recently with Cal FC's magical run and eight MLS teams (half of the top-flight league's entrants!) bowing out in the third round last season. And with a number of MLS players bound to be missing due to national team duty, with MLS teams more likely to risk reserve-team players this early in the Open Cup and with weekend league matches on the horizon, the potential for some eye-opening scorelines on Tuesday and Wednesday is mighty high.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
Defenders: Chris Tierney (New England Revolution), Jamison Olave (New York Red Bulls), Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy)
Midfielders: Justin Mapp (Montreal Impact), Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution), Marcelo Sarvas (LA Galaxy), Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers)
Forwards: Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
|Week 13 MLS Power Rankings|
||FC Dallas (8-2-3)
Fabian Castillo's goal has FC Dallas back on the winning track following a one-game slip-up, with the current Supporters' Shield frontrunners taming last year's Supporters' Shield winner, San Jose. Raul Fernandez was heroic in net -- denying the Earthquakes their typical late-game shenanigans -- and rookie and U.S. U-20 center back Walker Zimmerman looked right at home in the heart of the club's defense in his first MLS start.
||Portland Timbers (5-1-7)
Portland improved to 2-0-5 on the road with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over lowly D.C. United. Rodney Wallace maintained his elite form, and the club overcame a hamstring injury to Diego Valeri to earn all three points. Perhaps more importantly, new signing Pa Modou Kah endured a successful debut in central defense, which could have a longer-lasting impact on the club considering its injury woes at the position this season.
||Sporting Kansas City (6-4-4)
Kei Kamara's heroics off the bench salvaged a draw and very nearly earned all three points for Sporting KC, which battled back to prevent Houston from exacting full revenge for having its home unbeaten streak snapped in the rivals' last meeting. Sporting KC will now meet Montreal in a high-profile Eastern Conference battle, but with Graham Zusi and Matt Besler being on USA duty, the club will be without a pair of vital pieces.
||Montreal Impact (7-2-2)
Marco Di Vaio's hat trick in the first 32 minutes set the tone for a wild 5-3 victory over Philadelphia and also catapulted Di Vaio into a tie with Jack McInerney atop the Golden Boot standings. Montreal needed more than just Di Vaio, though, and the combination of Justin Mapp, Felipe, Andrew Wenger -- who has turned into a mighty good player in the attack in his second season -- and rookie Blake Smith took care of business in providing enough insurance for the Impact to stay in front.
||New York Red Bulls (7-4-4)
Mike Petke was livid with the penalty call that went against his side -- it wasn't even the most egregious PK call of the weekend, for what it's worth -- and almost cost the Red Bulls a point. But Jamison Olave's late heroics off a feed from Jonny Steele cemented a 2-2 draw against Columbus. As for New York's first goal, how easy did Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry make that long-distance connection and lob look? That was a perfect case of two DPs proving their worth.
||Los Angeles Galaxy (6-4-2)
It was certainly a night for the Robbies, as Rogers' historic appearance and Keane's hat trick made for a memorable night for the home side. Virtually every Galaxy player turned in a strong performance, but perhaps nobody turned more heads than rookie Gyasi Zardes, who tortured Seattle with his speed, size and guile. Zardes made for one heck of a complement to Keane and Landon Donovan in the Galaxy attack. The champs keep on reloading.
||Houston Dynamo (6-4-3)
Despite being shorthanded in defense -- Bobby Boswell was suspended, Jermaine Taylor hurt and Corey Ashe forced off with a groin injury -- the Dynamo persevered their way to a point and very nearly took all three at Sporting Park. The injury comes at an awful time for Ashe, who had just received his first U.S. national team call-up for Wednesday's match against Belgium. Ashe is now in doubt to provide cover for Jurgen Klinsmann.
||Real Salt Lake (6-5-3)
Alvaro Saborio returned from injury, and the Costa Rican striker marked his comeback with a goal. But he may have aggravated his quadriceps as well. To make matters worse, a failure to defend a late throw-in -- no matter if Jason Kreis thought it was a legal throw or not -- cost RSL a couple of points as the club was forced to settle for a draw. The progression of young homegrown defender Carlos Salcedo is also of note, as Salcedo continues to look the part as he learns and grows on the pro level.
||Colorado Rapids (5-4-4)
Nathan Sturgis and Atiba Harris provided offense, and unheralded goalkeeper Clint Irwin posted yet another shutout in the Rapids' 2-0 win over Chivas USA, one that extended the club's unbeaten streak to five games. Unfortunately for Colorado, the club is no stranger to injuries; the latest one to Martin Rivero appeared to be an aggravation of the broken foot he dealt with during the winter. That would be a setback, but as manager Oscar Pareja has shown, he has depth to turn to in times of crisis.
||Seattle Sounders (4-4-3)
And just like that, the Sounders' six-game unbeaten run is up in smoke. The club looked shockingly overwhelmed, disinterested and overrun in its 4-0 demolition at the hands of the Galaxy. More troubling, Shalrie Joseph's inability to control his emotions and actions led to a red card. With his suspension, Osvaldo Alonso's injury and Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans' departure to U.S. national team camp, the club figures to be mighty shorthanded on Saturday. Fortunately for Seattle, that date coincides with a game against lowly Chivas USA.
||Philadelphia Union (5-5-3)
After trading Bakary Soumare to the Chicago Fire, the Union welcomed Jeff Parke back from injury. But that did nothing to tighten the club's defense, which was stretched in just about every way imaginable as it conceded five goals to Montreal. Di Vaio's runs can be tricky and well-timed, but there is no excuse for how wide open Di Vaio was en route to a 32-minute hat trick.
||Columbus Crew (4-4-4)
Columbus almost overcame an early injury to leading scorer Dominic Oduro and still nearly took three points off New York on the road. Sure, there will be questions about the legitimacy of the penalty earned by Justin Meram and the club's late-game defense, but Federico Higuain made good on his second penalty attempt against Luis Robles in as many games and Columbus took a solid road point for its efforts.
||New England Revolution (4-4-4)
Jay Heaps may finally have the attacking pieces to complement his stout, league-leading defense. Juan Agudelo and Diego Fagundez both tallied for the second straight game, and the Revs took care of business against Toronto FC for their second consecutive 2-0 result. Heaps' charges will be put to the test next weekend, though, as the high-octane Galaxy come to Gillette Stadium. But LA will be without Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez, who will be serving international duty.
||Vancouver Whitecaps (3-4-4)
The Whitecaps come off their bye week rested and ready to take aim at clinching a place in the CONCACAF Champions League. After holding Montreal to a scoreless draw in the road leg of the Canadian championship final, Vancouver returns home with the advantage while aiming to put its last four seasons of finishing as runner-up to Toronto FC in the rearview mirror by claiming the Voyageurs Cup.
||San Jose Earthquakes (3-5-6)
San Jose's late-game heroics failed to materialize after being stonewalled by FCD's Fernandez, and the club continues to struggle to put together a comprehensive 90 minutes on a consistent basis. The road ahead is a treacherous one for San Jose. Five of its next eight games come on the road (including four of the next five), and its home games during that stretch come against LA, Seattle and Portland.
||Chicago Fire (2-7-2)
The Fire received a Sean Johnson special, with the U.S. national team call-up coming up time and again in goal to keep his club in the game against RSL to earn a last-gasp point and snap a three-game scoring drought. With Bakary Soumare and Mike Magee now in the fold, Chicago has added two upgrades to its roster in areas of need. It should be primed for an uptick in performance.
||Chivas USA (3-7-2)
Following the club's fourth straight loss and sixth in its last seven games, it appears as if the Chelis magic continues to wear off. The outspoken manager essentially said that his team was not good enough to compete in MLS, and based on recent showings, he's absolutely right. The Goats have been outscored 13-1 in their last four games -- the last three of which have come against Western Conference competition
||Toronto FC (1-7-4)
More changes continue to have little effect for the Reds, as experimenting with Darren O'Dea at left back did not pay dividends for Ryan Nelsen's side. And remember how dangerous John Bostock looked early in his first TFC season? That success never carried over, and he hit the waiver wire as the club opted not to extend his loan. Toronto's early-season optimism has faded quickly.
||D.C. United (1-9-2)
D.C. is now winless in 10 straight games, tying a dubious franchise record. On top of that, Ben Olsen lambasted his team for being soft and reiterated that player moves are imminent. Dwayne De Rosario was also a healthy scratch from the starting XI, making for an unhappy captain and team leader. It really can't get much worse in the nation's capital.