Robbie Rogers made his historic comeback, D.C. sunk to deeper lows and a center back became a class forward in MLS Week 13:
1. Robbie Rogers rightfully commands the spotlight. Rogers made history late on Sunday night, but who knew he was so prophetic as well?
In a pregame interview with ESPN's Alexi Lalas about an hour and a half before Rogers broke a barrier that was begging to be smashed down for quite some time, Rogers said -- presumably jokingly -- that he wished he could enter into a 4-0 game, a pressure-free environment to make an easy return to the sport. Given that it was Rogers' night, perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise that his wish came entirely true.
With the Galaxy improbably leading an in-form Seattle Sounders side 4-0 as the clock turned from 76:38 to 76:39, Rogers ran onto the field to replace Juninho, grinning from ear-to-ear and marking his return to the sport following a weekend trade that landed him with his hometown LA Galaxy. As the first openly gay male to play a game in a major professional team sport in North America, Rogers' ascension to becoming a pioneer was complete.
Rogers' return was symbolic, poetic and seamless all at the same time. He did so against the team that employs Marc Burch and as a teammate of Colin Clark; Burch and Clark were suspended last season for using anti-gay slurs on the field. Rogers returned against Sigi Schmid, the coach in Columbus under whom he flourished as a player. And he ran onto the pitch to the sound of nothing but genuine applause -- his support system reaching just about every corner of the social media universe. With the game's result long decided, Rogers could bask in the spotlight for about 13 minutes while acclimating back to the field from which he thought he had to walk away.
Now that Rogers has completed his comeback and helped break down a barrier that will hopefully usher in a new era in professional sports, other on-field aspects of his move to Los Angeles will be dissected in the coming months. Was it really worth it for LA to part ways with Mike Magee, who had been so clutch in the last two MLS Cup runs and was the team's leading scorer this season? Can Rogers, who has played sparingly since leaving MLS following the 2011 season, reclaim the form that had him in the U.S. national team picture? The Galaxy organization, Rogers' new teammates and his nearby family will provide a nurturing environment in which Rogers can flourish, but he has some serious shoes to fill to make the trade truly worth it for LA and its MLS Cup three-peat aspirations.
On Sunday night though, all of that was secondary. Congratulations, thank you and welcome back, Robbie.
2. Dwayne De Rosario's omission raises eyebrows. Of all of the potential solutions to D.C. United's problems, benching a healthy De Rosario did not figure to sit at the top of the list. Yet there was De Rosario on Saturday night, his name left off the starting XI as he watched his club roll over for the Portland Timbers and fall to a league-worst 1-9-2. De Rosario was not injured, and while he may have said critical things out of frustration regarding the team's attacking woes, the comments did not seem to be anything detrimental to the point that he would need to be benched. Ben Olsen said it was a coach's decision to leave the 35-year-old De Rosario out of his lineup, but there seems to be more to the choice than a basic urge to change things up.
After the 2-0 loss to Portland, a despondent De Rosario expressed his frustration at being a scratch; he said the explanation he was given from the coaching staff was that he and Carlos Ruiz could not work together on the field. If that is indeed the case, it begs a pair of questions: Why did the club use resources and its place in the MLS allocation order to acquire Ruiz in the first place? And with everything going so wrong for D.C. season, why voluntarily anger and confound the club's on- and off-field leader?
It would seem like there would be little upside to benching De Rosario with the club struggling to score goals (six individual players have matched or exceeded D.C's six-goal output this season). This move was just one more thing to question in the nation's capital.
3. Jamison Olave displays versatility in crunch time. Olave is known for being many things: a physical specimen, MLS All-Star, hulking center back, Defensive Player of the Year. But being a finesse forward? As it turns out, the Colombian has that club in his bag, after all.
Olave's take down and touch off Jonny Steele's lofted, outside-of-the-cleat cross was one of the more unexpected moments of brilliance during a week in which two players -- Montreal's Marco Di Vaio and LA's Robbie Keane -- netted first-half hat tricks and which goalkeepers Sean Johnson, Tally Hall and Raul Fernandez turned in highlight-reel quality saves to preserve results for their respective sides.
For Olave to be so smooth in a last-gasp attacking role was a display of true skill, poise and composure. His first touch off the take down faked out Columbus Crew defender Kevan George, who had cleared an Olave header off the line moments earlier and expected Olave to try and hit the ensuing chance on frame. It also set Olave up perfectly for a left-footed blast that no goalkeeper was going to stop. Any forward in the league would yearn to come through in the manner Olave did, and with his fourth goal of the season, he not only set a new career high, but he introduced a new element to his already star-caliber arsenal.
4. Cup competitions take precedent. It figures to be a crazy, taxing week for all MLS teams except Toronto FC. Of the league's 19 clubs, 18 will compete in midweek matches, with the 100th edition of the U.S. Open Cup and second leg of the Canadian championship final taking attention from league play.
With 16 MLS teams entering the Open Cup in the third round, there are a number of storylines in play, and upsets at the hands of lower-division teams always figure to play a part. Two matchups to keep an eye on include clubs playing against their USL PRO affiliates, as New England squares off against the Rochester Rhinos and D.C. United plays the Richmond Kickers. The latter is especially noteworthy, as a pair of United players -- 17-year-old forward Michael Seaton and goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra -- have remained on loan with the Kickers for the competition. Former United castaway, forward Joseph Ngwenya, has been lighting it up for the Kickers recently as well. All three players could contribute to sending D.C. to its worst-case scenario: Compounding its league-worst record with an early Open Cup exit to what essentially amounts to its kid brother.
LA and Seattle, meanwhile, had to travel to North Carolina and Florida, respectively, following Sunday night's contest. And both have been open about expressing their anger at the exorbitant travel demands; the clubs have had to do more traveling than most considering their recent CONCACAF Champions League exploits. On the complete other end of the competition spectrum, four PDL teams -- the Des Moines Menace, FC Tucson, Ocean City Nor'easters and Reading United AC -- advanced over professional counterparts and have grand visions in mind while eyeing spots in the round of 16.
The tournament always churns out some unusual results, most recently with Cal FC's magical run and eight MLS teams (half of the top-flight league's entrants!) bowing out in the third round last season. And with a number of MLS players bound to be missing due to national team duty, with MLS teams more likely to risk reserve-team players this early in the Open Cup and with weekend league matches on the horizon, the potential for some eye-opening scorelines on Tuesday and Wednesday is mighty high.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
Defenders: Chris Tierney (New England Revolution), Jamison Olave (New York Red Bulls), Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy)
Midfielders: Justin Mapp (Montreal Impact), Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution), Marcelo Sarvas (LA Galaxy), Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers)
Forwards: Marco Di Vaio (Montreal Impact), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)