OBETZ, Ohio – Robbie Rogers has already accomplished plenty in four short years.
He's been with the Crew since he was 19 years old, a brief but eventful span that has seen him earn a MLS Best XI selection and win an MLS Cup in 2008, and help his team claim the Supporters’ Shield each of the past two seasons.
He’s played numerous international matches for his club in the CONCACAF Champions League, and though he wasn’t selected for the final roster for the World Cup in South Africa, he was a selection for US coach Bob Bradley’s 30-man preliminary camp that convened in May.
But what has been missing from his pro résumé is the check mark next to his leadership abilities. With the likes of 30-somethings Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Gino Padula and Frankie Hejduk and the team’s other veterans, Rogers has deferred to them on the field and in the locker room.
[inline_node:320792]But after watching the Crew struggle lately while he completed a two-month recovery from surgery on his left knee, Rogers had time to assess his role.
“I definitely feel it’s time for me to step up,” Rogers said in the wake of a 2-0 loss to Chicago last week, extending the Crew’s winless streak in league play to five games. “I’m an experienced player now. I’m only 23, but I’ve played here for a while. I’ve been in the playoffs. I’ve played for the national team. I know I’ve been out [of the lineup] for a while but I want to help in any way I can.
“I’ve been thinking about it,” Rogers added. “Now it’s time to do something about it. There are definitely guys with more experience than me, but I feel like when I’m on the field I need to be a leader, be special out there and add something.”
That’s welcome news for a team that’s been shut out two straight games and has lost its lead on the postseason’s top spot from the Eastern Conference.
Rogers has just two goals the past two seasons after scoring six times in his first full year in 2008.
“He’s always had a good attitude to do the best he can when he steps on the field,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “Maybe now he’s hungry for the goals, hungry for assists. That’s great to hear.”
[inline_node:320456]Warzycha was succinct when asked what a healthy Rogers can bring to the team: “Last pass. He can score goals also, but more than anything he is a set-up guy.”
Rogers can expect plenty of opportunities to play himself back into shape with two league games and a Champions League contest prior to the start of the playoffs. He logged his first full 90 minutes in the loss to Chicago.
“I’m not 100 percent there,” he said. “I played 90 minutes at Chicago but I was struggling. But if they want me to come off the bench or start it doesn’t matter to me. I want to help anyway possible. I’m just excited to be playing soccer again.”