Crew set for first matchup with former mainstay Rogers
A lot has changed since Robbie Rogers last donned the Black & Gold in October 2011.
Since the winger left Columbus for English Championship side Leeds United in the following offseason, Rogers never quite gained his footing in England as he battled injuries, sparse playing time and a loan spell with third-division Stevenage.
Then in February, everything changed as Rogers briefly retired from soccer after he announced he was gay -- something he had held inside throughout his life. Three months later, Rogers signed with his hometown LA Galaxy on a monumental day in American sports history.
Now a pioneer as the first openly gay male athlete to play in a major American sports league, Rogers will face his former club for the first time. Ironically, the reunion will occur on the same turf Rogers helped deliver Columbus' first pro sports championship in the 2008 MLS Cup Final at what was then known as the Home Depot Center.
Though facing former teammates is commonplace in MLS, Chad Marshall and Danny O'Rourke are looking forward to facing their friend and fellow MLS Cup champion on Thursday.
"[Rogers] has been away from the Crew for a while now and I think the longer you play in this League, the more you play against former teammates," Marshall said. "It'll be just another game, but it'll be nice to see him. I haven't seen him in a long time. I'm glad he's back on the field and it'll be fun to play against him."
O'Rourke added: "That's just the nature of the beast. People get traded or end up with different teams. Those people are still friends off the field, but when it comes to the field, it's all business.
"We're still good buddies."
Though his time with the Black & Gold has been over for almost two years, the memory of Rogers' influence on the 2008 squad still lingers in the minds of his former teammates.
"I just remember some of the goals he scored for us and how big he was for us in that 2008 season, I'll always remember the bomb he hit against New York," Marshall recalled. "Just his ability to read Guillermo [Barros Schelotto] -- they seemed to have a good relationship of knowing where each other would be -- so it was fun to watch. It was an exciting time for the Crew.
"I'm just excited to play against him and see him on Thursday."