South Bay soccer player Robbie Rogers, who recently came out as gay, appeared on ABC’s “Nightline” last night to discuss NBA player Jason Collins’ admission that he is homosexual and what it was like to return to his family after making his public admission.
I hesitated blogging about this yet again, but it’s a subject and discussion some still need to hear judging by the response to Collins’ announcement.
Let’s hope we see Rogers back on a soccer field in a competitive game sooner rather than later, although he did make it out to Galaxy training today:
— Robbie Rogers (@robbierogers) April 30, 2013
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) April 30, 2013
Before the explosions in Boston today, both ABC (on Nightline) and CNN were scheduled to air the first U.S. television interviews with Robbie Rogers of Rolling Hills Estates.
After today’s events I’m unsure whether the interviews will still air as scheduled, but above is an excerpt from the ABC interview with correspondent Amy Robach.
Published the day after Galaxy star Landon Donovan gave an honest and at times raw account of his search for mental health during his recent sabatical from the sport, the interview recounts Rogers’ struggles to come to terms with his sexuality given his public personna as a athlete and the rampant homophobia seen in men’s soccer.
I’ve drawn parallels between Rogers and Donovan before and do so again here in part because Rogers said in the interview he might seek to train with the Galaxy. Hopefully coach Bruce Arena and the supportive likes of Donovan will make that happen because if Rogers has any hopes of re-starting his soccer career his home here in Southern California may well be the place to do it.
Rogers has received criticism in some quarters for retiring from the game — although it’s unclear whether he has stepped away for good — but Donovan’s cry for more acceptance of mental health issues Wednesday resonates even more this morning in light of Rogers’ interview.
- No, not the German rock band, the NASL club. Former LA Galaxy midfielder-defender Bryan Jordan, 27, joins the NASL San Antonio Scorpions after being released by the Galaxy at the end of last year.
- The Galaxy have officially signed rookie defender Kofi Opare, a second round draft via Michigan out of Ghana. This was a formality; the Galaxy were awaiting paperwork.
- Diamond Bar’s Alex Morgan was on target today for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
EPL side Norwich City are picking up fans in Sierra Leone and the native of the war-torn nation, Kei Kamara, of South Bay high school and Cal State Dominguez Hills renown, is doing the same in England after two brief, but galvanizing performances for the top tier club.
The Canaries play EPL leaders Manchester United this weekend (live at 7 a.m. Saturday on ESPN2) and Kamara’s performance for Sporting Kansas City against the Red Devils in a friendly a couple of years ago is among the local media’s talking points ahead of the big game.
Kamara is still expected to come off the bench Saturday as he works his way toward match fitness, despite the hype, but he sounds like he’s thoroughly enjoying the limelight so far:
It’s really a Dream/Blessing to be on a train in United Kingdom and seeing someone reading an article bout u in the newspaper. #butterflies
— KEI KAMARA (@keikamara) February 27, 2013
Back from a 10-day vacation ahead of the start of the MLS season, I’m off to Galaxy training in a moment to hear more from coach Bruce Arena about Sunday’s announcement regarding Landon Donovan’s immediate MLS future.
That announcement followed in the wake of the bombshell of an unexpected retirement announcement by Rolling Hills Estates‘ Robbie Rogers, whose considerable promise as a player now looks like it’s going to be unfulfilled. I’ll have more on Donovan and Rogers in Tuesday’s column.
In other news while I’ve been taking a break:
*Inglewood’s Jose Villarreal is expected to lead the U-20 U.S. team today against Haiti in the opener of the regional championship with a place in the World Cup later this year in a game that will be shown live at 3:30 p.m. on Fox Soccer.
*The Galaxy played Korea’s Gangwon FC in a recent scrimmage and announced they will play Friday in Santa Barbara against the Colorado Rapids.
*Chivas USA also beat the Colorado Rapids Friday in Las Vegas, while the Goats continue to remake their roster trading midfielder Ben Zemanski to Portland last week in a move that could pave the way for the return of defender Jonathan Bornstein from Mexico.
Kei’s House: Carrow Road, home of EPL club Norwich City and now Lawndale’s Kei Kamara (and yes, that’s me on the right being given a personal tour of the stadium by a very kind Norwich City employee back in 2006).
Lawndale’s Kei Kamara has completed his journey from refugee in war-torn Sierra Leone, which forced him to flee to Lawndale, to the EPL with Norwich City (full disclosure: I grew up in Norwich and continue to support my hometown team) completing a move from Sporting Kansas City first publicly broached last week:
This is Surreal. I said it at draft day and saying it again Dreams do come True. Allah is Great. #heartshapedhands
— KEI KAMARA (@keikamara) January 30, 2013
- EPL club Norwich City have admitted interest in Sporting Kansas City striker Kei Kamara, who emigrated from Africa to the South Bay and played at Cal State Dominguez Hills before turning pro. Full disclosure: I’m hopelessly biased as a Norwich fan, but seeing him partner Grant Holt up front would no doubt give the goal shy City attack much more substance.
- Here’s an update from the U.S. Men’s National Team in Carson where coach Jurgen Klinsmann is talking beer and um, balls, in revealing it was his choice — not Landon Donovan’s — to keep the Galaxy playmaker out of the U.S. camp while he mulls his future.
- Designated player Shalrie Joseph, who arrived at Chivas last year in mid-season only to see the club promptly collapse defensively, is reportedly on his way out of the club.
- Finally, here’s one I missed: a Hawthorne resident, former South Bay Force player and Galaxy Academy player has joined what is generally regarded as the top team in Guatemala.
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar has more:
GENEVA (AP) — Lionel Messi can break another soccer record on Monday by being selected the world’s best player for an unprecedented fourth time.
The Barcelona and Argentina forward, who scored 91 goals in 2012, is the favorite to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or prize ahead of club teammate Andres Iniesta and rival Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.
A fourth straight title would lift Messi above FIFA World Player of the Year three-time winners Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo of Brazil.
Since the original Ballon d’Or was launched in 1956 as a European award, Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten also earned a hat trick of titles.
The U.S. gold medal-winning team at the London Olympics could dominate the women’s awards at FIFA’s annual gala ceremony.
Forwards Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan are competing with five-time winner Marta of Brazil for best player, and former coach Pia Sundhage is favored to be selected best coach of a women’s team ahead of two male rivals: Norio Sasaki of silver-medalist Japan and Bruno Bini of France.
Wambach, who finished third in the FIFA voting last year, and Morgan seek to become the first American winner since Mia Hamm got the 2002 award. Wambach scored five goals at the Olympics and Morgan got three as the U.S. took its third straight gold medal. Marta’s Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Japan.
Sundhage, who has since returned home to coach Sweden’s women’s national team, is favored after losing out on the award last year to Sasaki after Japan won the World Cup.
Victory for Messi would fuel renewed debate over how his talent compares with Pele and Diego Maradona, whose careers were over or peaked before FIFA started its award in 1991. The South American greats were never eligible for the old Ballon d’Or run by France Football magazine. The awards merged in 2010.
“(Michael) Jordan dominated his sport and Messi dominates this one,” former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said last year, in comparing his protege to the basketball icon.
Iniesta starred at the European Championship last summer as Spain’s relentless passing game won a third straight major tournament title.
Ronaldo, the 2008 FIFA award winner and twice runner-up to Messi, impressed with prolific scoring to help Madrid take away Barcelona’s Spanish league title, then carried Portugal to the Euro 2012 semifinals.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is a candidate for the men’s coaching award, along with the Madrid-Barcelona duo of Jose Mourinho and Guardiola, who left the Catalan club in May.
The four main awards were voted on by coaches and captains of national teams worldwide, plus invited journalists. The votes were filed in November before Messi gained yet more praise in his successful pursuit of Gerd Mueller’s milestone of 85 goals in a calendar year.
Messi’s total included 79 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina, to overtake Mueller’s tally for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972.
“I’m delighted for him,” Mueller said. “He is an incredible player, gigantic. He’s such a nice and modest professional.”
Messi also answered criticism that he underachieves for Argentina with five goals in five World Cup qualifiers and impressive hat-tricks in exhibitions against Brazil and Switzerland.
Ronaldo scored 46 goals in Madrid’s title march and would have boosted his Ballon d’Or claim by leading Portugal to win Euro 2012, where opposing fans often taunted him by chanting Messi’s name.
Iniesta excelled in the final as Spain silenced critics of its possession play to beat Italy 4-0 in the most lop-sided result of any World Cup or European Championship final.
All three Ballon d’Or nominees will likely be named in a World XI lineup chosen by the FIFPro group of players’ unions comprising around 50,000 members worldwide.
Brazil star Neymar seeks a repeat victory in the Puskas Award given to the best goal of the year, offering consolation for again missing out on the Ballon d’Or shortlist. FIFA President Sepp Blatter acknowledged that it is difficult for players based outside Europe to attract voters’ attention.
Neymar is nominated on a three-goal shortlist for a spectacular solo effort for Santos, dribbling past several Internacional opponents in March.
Radamel Falcao scored an acrobatic volley for Atletico Madrid against America de Cali in an exhibition in May, and Miroslav Stoch of Fenerbahce struck with a volley in a Turkish league game against Genclerbirligi in March. Fans voted online from 10 candidates proposed by FIFA.
Leuzinger High School star Gyasi Zardes, 21, of Hawthorne, one of the nation’s most prolific college scorers over the last two years, has signed a professional contract with his hometown MLS club, the Galaxy announced today.
A proud Zardes, who scored 33 goals in 37 games for Cal State Bakersfield over the last three years, grew up 10 minutes from Home Depot Center and watched games there frequently, he told reporters on a teleconference call this morning.
“It’s exciting to be a part of the Galaxy family,” he said. “It’s the number one club in my eyes. I’ve always wanted to play in front of my family members.”
Zardes played for the Galaxy at U-18 and U-20 levels and spent last summer with the PDL Ventura County Fusion where he played against the likes of Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion.
“Gyasi has been one of the most exciting prospects in our Academy for a number of years and was one of the best players in college soccer over the past few years so we are excited to finally be able to sign him as a Homegrown Player,” Galaxy Vice President Chris Klein said. “He has grown and improved immeasurably as a result of his experiences with our Academy and at Bakersfield and we look forward to having him make his Galaxy debut in 2013.”
He is the second South Bay player after Inglewood’s Jose Villarreal to sign with the Galaxy. He is the fifth local product to sign as a homegrown player with the Galaxy; the first was Van Nuys’ Tristan Bowen, now with Chivas USA. And he is the third South Bay Force player, following in the wake of Villarreal and, most recently, Oscar Sorto, to turn pro with the club.
“South Bay Force has been building for many years here locally in youth club soccer to realize this moment,” said Technical Director Todd Saldana. “It is our golden era of player development having the three players signed by the LA Galaxy in recent times.”
Born to Brazilian parents, Zardes grew up watching, admiring and emulating the likes of Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robinho, “cut throat” strikers he said he hopes to follow in the footsteps of. And now his pro future is secured after three years in college, where he is just two classes away from a degree in criminal justice.
“I definitely feel more comfortable signing before the (MLS) draft because I know where I’m going to be based,” he said. “I’m 100 times more comfortable knowing I’m going to be based in Southern California and playing for the LA Galaxy.”
From the Galaxy: Zardes burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2011, scoring 18 times in 20 games while helping lead Bakersfield to a berth in the NCAA Division I Tournament for the first time in school history. His 18 goals that season were the fourth most in Division I college soccer that year and he was selected the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year and a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, which is awarded annually to the top player in college soccer.
In 2012, Zardes followed up his breakout season by scoring 15 goals and adding nine assists, each of which were team-highs, in 17 games, while helping the Roadrunners record a winning record for the fourth consecutive season. He had two or more goals in four of his 17 games, including seven goals in a two-game stretch in mid-October.