WASHINGTON – At his first practice with D.C. United on Friday, English soccer star Wayne Rooney already was showing not only his strong attacking skills but his ability to be a team leader and help elevate the play of his teammate, head coach Ben Olsen said.
Rooney participated in all sections of Friday’s 90-minute practice at RFK Stadium, including several shooting exercises.
The team believes Rooney’s attacking skills will allow coaches to adjust the line-up, especially with so many significant players on the disabled list.
“We will see a guy who, just a few months ago, scored 10 goals in the English Premier League so I think we will see him add some real attacking power to our offense that certainly this team could use at this point of the season,” said Lindsay Simpson, the team’s vice president of marketing and communications.
Rooney, 32, also is expected to be a team leader based on his experience as captain of England’s national football team from 2014 to 2017.
“What we will see out of him, as he progresses with this club,” said Simpson, “is tremendous leadership on and off the field, both in the words that he says, but the work ethic that he shows on the field.”
Olsen agreed: “He is going to raise the level of each player because he is used to winning and he’s used to playing at the highest levels. … Others around him will elevate their games and their mentality.”
Bot Olsen also said that Rooney is flexible enough to fit in with the already existing patterns.
“He is also the type of guy that will fit into the structure and the things we’ve built into this group already. He is going to be adaptable and understand that part, too.”
Rooney is not eligible to play for the United until the international transfer window officially opens on July 10. He will debut, in his No. 9 shirt, on July 14 when the United, with a 2-5-7 record so far, hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps in the team’s new home, Audi Field.
“I think it’s exciting for the guys to come back with the energy of not only a new building but a new teammate. The morale right now is very good for a team that sits at the bottom. We all understand what the rest of the season needs to look like for us to get into the postseason, but we all believe … that is something we can accomplish,” said Olsen.
He did not say whether Rooney would start the game.
“We have to be smart about this and make sure we are not doing anything that is going to jeopardize him, his safety, that we have him for the rest of the season and that we bring him along in the smart way,” said the coach.
Rooney warming up before the training. (Athena Liu/MNS)
Rooney warming up with teammates. (Athena Liu/MNS)
Rooney playing in the practice game. (Athena Liu/MNS)
Rooney playing against his teammate. (Athena Liu/MNS)
Rooney in the middle of the practice game. (Athena Liu/MNS)
Rooney gets along with new teammates. (Athena Liu/MNS)
Rooney wrapping up the training with a small talk with head coach Ben Olsen. (Athena Liu/MNS)