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 email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano