Exponential excitement came with the first heat wave of the summer as DC United welcomes English forward Wayne Rooney to the team. Rooney, the superstar who played for Manchester United for 14 years and most recently, a return to his original club, Everton, now joins DC United, the third team of his professional career since 2002. He will be sporting number 9 on his jersey and he will attract a crowd.
Like David Beckham before him, when he joined the LA Galaxy years ago, Rooney brings the hope of a higher level of play to the young men of the DC United team. When he was asked about why he came to the D.C. area to play with the team, he cleared up very quickly an additional unspoken question: Is he here to retire?
Rooney responded, “I’m not here to see out my last few years. I’m here to compete, I’m here to win.”
Rooney made it clear that he is aware of the storied play of the past and the disappointing results of recent for DC United. He did not specifically say the team needs to work harder, but he pointed out that the academy players he has been working out with could push themselves more. When the team gets back from their road series, he will start working out with them.
DC United’s General Manager and VP of Soccer Operations Dave Kasper commented on what the team expects from Rooney. “It’s a starting point. He is in his preseason now and he has to get fit. That is the first and foremost point…in 100-degree heat to boot, so, we welcome him with some summery D.C. weather, but the focus is the first match. July 14 when we open Audi Field, that’s what Wayne is focused on, that’s what the club is focused on. Getting him ready, getting him prepared. The team is in L.A. right now, he hasn’t had a chance yet to really meet and bond with his teammates, he’ll do that this Friday when the team returns from that trip. From that moment on, we press on and focus on Saturday night, July 14 [when DC United takes on the Vancouver Whitecaps FC].
Wayne Rooney is part of a multimillion-dollar plan to bring stellar soccer back to Washington, D.C. and the first phase is coming together. DC United has a new stadium and they now have an internationally-recognized star on the roster. This will not be the last roster change of this team for year, there is more to come.”
DC United Managing General Partner and CEO Jason Levien said of the plans in place, “This is really a seminal moment in our organization, and, we believe, for the District. Two weeks from today, we are going to christen a new cathedral for soccer here in D.C., Audi Field, that took many years and a lot of hurt.”
With the number of caps for England at a historic level, and the three World Cup appearances, it has been an amazing career so far for Wayne Rooney, and when I have spent time with him over the past couple of months and talked about his hunger for the game, his love to lead, his love to win and what he wants to accomplish in this chapter for D.C. United and Major League Soccer, it became more and more exciting, and it became clear that this was not just an opportunity that fit so well for Wayne, but it was one that all of our fans here in D.C. are going to love and relish.
These are the moves of team management and coaches who want their shot at being top dog in the league. They did not invest in the new stadium and new roster talent like Wayne Rooney for a short-term gain. This group is pacing a plan to deliver championships back to Washington, D.C. and DC United. It will not be this year, but the steps toward that goal should be obvious by the end of the season. That, and a whole lot of home matches to finish out the season.
Over on the other side of the professional soccer world in the area, the Washington Spirit have now laid down five matches with a goose egg in the column where goals scored would normally be recorded. The Washington Spirit are not navigating towards a good season ending. Last week it was nine points that separated the Spirit from being in the top four finishers of the league. This week it is 12. At 2-9-4 they sit at eighth place in a nine-team league. Second, third, and fourth place in the league are separated by one point.
The Spirit’s next home game will be on July 21 at 7:00 p.m. against the Houston Dash at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.