Rogers has special connection in Klinsmann

Crew midfielder's resurgence boosted further by onetime teammate

Robbie Rogers can’t help but smile at the way his summer has gone.

He has enjoyed a fine season with the Eastern Conference-leading
Columbus Crew, tallying two goals and five assists, and earned a revival
with the US national team. His success led to a call-up to Bob
Bradley's Gold Cup roster, though he didn't see a minute in the
tournament.

And though the Crew midfielder was left off the initial roster for the
first game of new USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann against Mexico, he was a
late addition when Maurice Edu went down with calf strain. Coming into
the match during the second half, Rogers was one of the bright spots for
the US, eventually scoring the equalizing goal in the 1-1 tie with El
Tri.

Rogers will look to create a similar spark on Friday when the US take
the field against Costa Rica at The Home Depot Center (11 pm ET, ESPN2,
Galavisión). Looking more confident on the training field by the day,
the 24-year-old feels he owes a debt of gratitude to his new national
team coach for his new mindset.

“It’s great for any player to have a coach that really believes in you
and is going to get you time on the field,” Rogers said at US training
on Wednesday. “If you’re playing for a coach that doesn’t have
confidence in you, you’re not going to have confidence on the field.
Some guys have it, but I’m not like that. [Klinsmann]’s got faith in
everyone on the team, and you can see that when we play.”

Rogers' history with his new coach goes far beyond a month ago. In
2003, when Rogers was only 16, he played alongside the former German
striker at Southern California based fourth-division club Orange County
Blue Star. Klinsmann, in the midst of his retirement, was playing for
the amateur side under the pseudonym “Jay Goppingen.” It was a name that
the then-recent immigrant adopted to avoid attention (Klinsmann hails
from the West German town of Göppingen).

Many amateurs were left with the lasting memory of playing alongside
the legendary striker, but Klinsmann considers himself honored to have
had the experience of playing alongside them.

“I was lucky enough to see some of these players coming through the
ranks years ago because Southern California is a special place for
developing players,” he said. “It gives you a chance to play all year
round; that’s why a lot of talent comes out of here. I saw Robbie play
when he was 14, 15 already. ... It’s fun to see these players coming
through and its fun to see what’s happened to them over the last couple
of years.”

With good form for both club and country, Rogers is likely to play a
role against Costa Rica and the match against Belgium next week.
However, while Rogers focuses on his own role with the national team, he
still believes that his former teammate and current coach could still
hold his own on the field.

“He was a great player and sometimes I feel like he could still play
with us,” said a smiling Rogers. “Sometimes, we’ll be crossing and
finishing and he has this quick reaction [at goal], but he just lets it
go. He still has that instinct.”

Adam Serrano writes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at adam.m.serrano@gmail.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano