Ever since it became known that Robbie Rogers wanted to return to playing, and that his extremely strong preference was to do it with the LA Galaxy, there was an underlying assumption that MLS would eventually make it happen. Although there was some level of precedent set in cases similar to this -- United States national team players wanting to only play for their hometown teams -- Rogers' potential status as a gay-trail blazer made it unique.
At one point, I actually said this was a situation that was going to be a rather significant test for MLS: They couldn't waste this PR opportunity but also couldn't appear as if the Galaxy were being given special treatment.
With news all but official that the Galaxy have agreed to send leading scorer Mike Magee to the Chicago Fire in exchange for the rights to Rogers, it would appear MLS managed to strike a near perfect balance. If anything, it would appear that the Galaxy will be giving up more than fair-market value in this deal.
The ultimate winners and losers of this trade will probably not be determined for months or even years, but in the short term no one can argue that the Galaxy got off easy in this thing. On a team that has become known for its superstars, Magee was the one who became a fan favorite. Magee came to the Galaxy in 2009 and promptly made a name for himself by scoring big goals in big games and even pitching a shutout as an emergency goalkeeper against the rival San Jose Earthquakes.
On a team that includes Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, Magee was the Galaxy's third leading scorer with 16 regular-season goals and their top playoff scorer with six goals since 2011. He was a such an important part of the Galaxy's run to back-to-back MLS Cup titles that it's hard to imagine they would have been able to win either one of their titles without his contributions. This year, he had already scored six goals and was one away from tying his career-high.
Suffice it to say, the Galaxy would have preferred not to give up Magee to acquire a player who has only made six competitive appearances since the end of the 2011 season.
But the Fire knew they had a commodity and, to their credit, weren't willing to simply roll over for the benefit of some immediate PR. In the long term, the league comes off looking much better now than if the Fire had settled for some draft picks and allocation money.
This is the kind of deal we'd expect to be made in any other North American league, given Rogers' on-field credentials. That has to be seen as a positive step forward, especially in a league where credibility is often in short supply.