Local English Premier League fans hoping to see Wayne Rooney come to them this weekend for D.C. United’s visit to the Union won’t get the chance. And since the English star forward is leaving MLS to return home after this season, the chance might never come.
Rooney was red-carded in D.C.'s 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night in Washington, meaning he’ll be suspended for Saturday’s game at Talen Energy Stadium (7:30 p.m., PHL17).
The ejection was well-earned: He swung at New York’s Cristian Cásseres Jr. during a corner kick and landed right in Casseres’ throat.
It’s a break for the Union, to be sure, though D.C. United is likely to be in an ornery mood Saturday night. They’ve won just two of nine league games since the start of July, including a 5-1 shellacking by the Union in Washington earlier this month.
The loss to the rival Red Bulls was preceded by a cross-continent trip to Vancouver last weekend, where D.C. lost to the Whitecaps, 1-0. They then endured a 12-hour commercial air trip home the next day.
That led Rooney and manager Ben Olsen to rebuke MLS’ strict limit of four charter flight legs per season. They have an ally in Union manager Jim Curtin, who has often called on the league to allow more charters to help players’ fitness.
Rooney is going back to England after the MLS season ends. D.C. let him break his contract early in part because his family wanted to return home. He will be a player and assistant coach for English second-division team Derby County, whose roster includes American prospect Duane Holmes.
The 33-year-old Liverpool native has never played at Talen Energy Stadium. He joined D.C. in late June of last year, two months after United’s game here last season.
All three of Rooney’s games against the Union have been played in Washington: league games last year and this year and a U.S. Open Cup game this year.
At this point, the only way Rooney would play here is if the Union host D.C. in a playoff game. That isn’t impossible, but the way the standings look right now, the odds seem slim — and they’ll grow slimmer if both teams finish in the top four.
You can be sure that some fans who wouldn’t normally go to Chester were planning to because of Rooney, and would likely have shown up wearing Manchester United or England jerseys. Those fans now have a choice to make. They could choose to not go, they could try to sell their tickets, or they could give a fair shake to a Union team that’s the best in club history.
Those fans have spoken many times to the Union over the years, and they often haven’t been polite. We’ll see if this weekend brings a compliment.
Union to honor former players
The Union will welcome back many former players this weekend for a recognition of the team’s 10th season. Notable names include Tranquillo Barnetta, Carlos Valdés, Danny Califf and Carlos Ruiz.
Players will be on the plaza outside the stadium before the game to sign autographs, and will be recognized on the field at halftime. There will also be a commemorative t-shirt available in the stadium store and online with the names of every player to ever suit up for the team.