The MLS Western Conference Championship saw the league’s two best over-lapping full-backs face off in a hotly-anticipated battle on the same flank, as LA Galaxy left-back Robbie Rogers took on Seattle Sounders right-back DeAndre Yedlin over the two legs.
One of the brightest American prospects, Yedlin’s reputation has risen to untold heights since an impressive showing at the World Cup this summer earned him a £2.5 million future move to Tottenham Hotspur, but it’s Rogers’ performances in recent months which have been the talk of the league.
The California-native, 27, has proved a revelation at his new position since being converted from the wing earlier in the season, with his displays earning widespread praise from fans, media members and fellow professionals.
Marking a remarkable turnaround since his brief retirement upon leaving Leeds United in 2013, he has now been tipped to earn a first US national team call-up since 2011, and club captain Robbie Keane stressed last month that he is more than deserving of the honour.
“For me, he's been brilliant since he converted to left-back,” he told MLSsoccer.com.
“He's a player who has grown in stature in that position. If you're looking at the best left-backs in the league, certainly he's up there. There's no question about that.”
Nevertheless, Rogers faced a tough task up against speedster Yedlin during the showdown between the league’s two foremost sides, but he proved in the home match at the StubHub Center and in Sunday night’s subsequent trip to Century Link Field that the recent plaudits he’s received are more than warranted.
|Team||Total Shots||Total Key Passes||Total Passes||Passing Accuracy||Total Crosses||Total Tackles||Total Clearances||Interceptions||Total Dribbles||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Robbie Rogers||LA Galaxy||4||2||88||77.3%||3||7||7||11||2||2||180|
|DeAndre Yedlin||Seattle Sounders||0||1||88||71.6%||7||7||6||2||7||2||180|
Pushing forward with aplomb in the first-leg, his drive and determination helped quell Yedlin’s own attacking qualities, and forced the Spurs-bound prospect to sit back and defend as LA claimed a vital 1-0 win in front of their own fans.
With Seattle then needing goals this past weekend to keep their dreams of a first-ever MLS Cup alive, Yedlin was given much more license to venture forward, but Rogers put in a huge defensive display as a 2-1 defeat was enough for the Galaxy to progress to the final on away goals thanks to Juninho’s 54th-minute strike.
Bruce Arena’s side will now look to become the first club to win five MLS titles when they host the New England Revolution in MLS Cup on December 7 at StubHub, where the former Columbus Crew attacker will have another chance to cap what’s been a fairly remarkable comeback.
“I feel like there are ups and downs in everyone’s life and you have to fight for the times that are great and you just have to ignore the people that aren’t as supportive,” he told the club’s official website last week.
“I think that you have to continue to work and are a good person and keep your head on your shoulders while focusing on the important things, things will come together. I feel like that if you try to do things the right way, I’ve been very lucky with how things came together.”
Going from retirement, to making sports history as the first openly gay man to compete in a top North American professional sports league, to thriving in a new position, to signing a new multi-year contract extension, to the verge of an MLS Cup win – Rogers’ resurgence over the past 18 months can’t be understated.
And, what’s more, if he continues to show progress in his new role moving forward then he could well be lining up on the US back-line with Yedlin in the not too distant future.