Throughout the last few years Leeds has seen its fair share of players come and go, just like every club does. Even though the club wishes every signing materialized into a high quality Championship player, the fact of the matter is not every transfer quite works out. A slew of variables often result in missed opportunities and the player never fully cements himself at Elland Road. Managers come and go, injuries stunt positive spells, and players fall out of favor.
In the 2012 January transfer window this sad tale played out with American midfielder Robbie Rogers, whose signing generated a great deal of buzz among fans. The Simon Grayson transfer target came to the club with an impressive pedigree from his time with the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer. As a member of the Crew he had once been named to the MLS Best XI, won one MLS Cup, and twice won the MLS Supporters Shield. Rogers even shone on the international level for the United States. He was able to integrate himself into both Bob Bradley's and Jurgen Klinsmann’s national teams and consistently prove himself for the Yanks.
Due to Rogers' pre-Leeds success there was an understandable sense of excitement for what he could bring to the Whites. The winger possessed a unique and highly coveted combination of deadly pace and pinpoint crossing, which left the Leeds faithful salivating at his prospects with the club. If all worked out he could have been terrorizing opposing backs. However, before Rogers could get himself fully situated at Leeds his career went in a drastically different direction than it had before January of 2012.
His first appearance with Leeds came against Doncaster Rover, but it lasted all of 10 minutes. A head clash with Doncaster left back Tommy Spurr resulted in Rogers getting a concussion. As he fought back from injury he received a couple more appearances and even took the captain’s armband against Reading. However, an ankle injury then stunted his progression at the club and Rogers never fully reached his potential.
He briefly went on a loan stint to Stevenage F.C. where he mustered six appearances in total, but things weren’t bright there either. Rogers then returned to Leeds in January of 2013 and it was announced that the club and Rogers mutually went their separate ways. What seemed to be a bright and promising career at Leeds resulted in only four appearances and left fans wondering what could have been.
Since, Rogers’ life has been through its own set of ups and downs, much like his time at Leeds. The 27 year old American retired from the game briefly in 2013 and came out as one of the first openly gay American athletes. He received a great deal of publicity in the British and American media for this braveness and he emerged as a role model for gay youth across the world. But, many wondered what was keeping Rogers from playing the game he so clearly loved.
His time off from the game didn’t last long though, as Rogers mentally got to a better place and came out of retirement from professional football. He returned to his American roots and signed in May of 2013 for the Los Angeles Galaxy, the same MLS team that Brits David Beckham and Robbie Keane have famously suited up for.
In the initial stages of Rogers’ time with the Galaxy he struggled to fully cement himself as a pillar in the Galaxy’s lineup. He showed signs of rust and it was clear that his time off from the game had taken its toll.
However, with a full preseason under his belt in 2014 Rogers' career surged to its previous level. The American left behind his usual winger role and adopted left back as his new position. With this positional change Rogers has enjoyed a career resurgence, in which he has returned to the form and level of play that brought him to Leeds in the first place.
Rogers’ play has aided the Galaxy to a place in MLS Cup and the second best record in the league. His performances even have many members of the American media clamoring for Rogers to return to the national team and make the left back spot his own for the 2018 World Cup cycle. Whether Rogers can do that will become more clear in the upcoming months, but the former Leeds player is enjoying arguably the best form of his entire career.
Where Rogers is at now will leave many wondering what could have happened if his time at Leeds wasn’t derailed by injuries. He could be marauding down the flank for the Whites every weekend, but Leeds fans are now left watching his career across the pond from afar.