The rumors of a Wayne Rooney to Major League Soccer move got fired up again earlier this month with talk that the Manchester United man could be on his way to the Los Angeles Galaxy. The possibility of Rooney playing on these shores is an intriguing one. Here are five reasons why it could work.
While it may seem like Rooney has been around for decades, he is still just 31 years old, a far cry from some other attack-minded players who have arrived to MLS as designated players, such as the 38-year-old Didier Drogba or the 36-year-old Steven Gerrard. Assuming Rooney lands at the right club for his needs, one could see him thriving for a solid four or five years as a No. 9 in MLS, but not as a No. 10 — picture Rooney running around in the August heat of Houston.
Robbie Keane, another player with a wealth of Premier League experience, was 31 when he landed with the Galaxy in 2011. Suffice to say that the former Ireland international has enjoyed a harmonious and successful career on the West Coast with three MLS Cups and a MLS MVP honor in 2014. The former Tottenham forward represents the ideal MLS template for Rooney: someone who plays up top, is a strong finisher and has the touch and vision to set up teammates.
2. The value of winning one-on-one battles
If there is one attribute that nearly all MLS Cup champions share, it is having a forward that can win a one-on-one battle. The large majority of this season’s playoff teams perfectly reflect that: Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco, New York City FC’s David Villa, the New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips and the aforementioned Keane all possess the quality necessary to win a head-to-head against a defender.
While Rooney does not possess the same dynamism that he had in his heyday at United, his smarts and power would wreak havoc against many an MLS defender. Considering that there are three more clubs that are going to be added to MLS in the next two seasons, one can’t help but think that Rooney would be poised to take advantage of some back lines that have not played much together: Think 2015 New York City FC.
In addition to his great instincts, Rooney’s physicality suggests he could cope just fine with the rough-and-tumble nature of MLS. In a league in which defenders are not afraid to make a crunching challenge on opposing attackers, one could see Rooney being able to go toe-to-toe with the Chad Marshalls and Bobby Boswells of the world. Add Rooney’s predatory finishing and you have a striker that would be able to handle the frenzied and sometimes choppy nature of MLS matches.
As is the case with many a big-time player who comes over from Europe, playing in North America represents a relief from the fishbowl environment that they have endured on the old continent. It seems like that would suit Rooney. The constant questions about his starting status or international future would be quieted much more in America.
That is not to say that there would not be criticism should Rooney fail to deliver in MLS, as Frank Lampard could attest to in the early stages of the 2016 season. But Rooney gives off the vibe that a low-key lifestyle is to his liking, and most certainly he would have that in MLS as opposed to returning to boyhood club Everton.
Let’s not forget that there are some very good playmakers in MLS who could set the table for Rooney success. What if Clint Dempsey is not able to return to football? The prospect of Rooney teaming up with Nicolas Lodeiro in Seattle is enticing. Or venture a bit south and Rooney and Portland’s Diego Valeri could make for a devastating pairing.
Then there is, of course,, the Galaxy and sure Bruce Arena could make that work with Rooney, Keane, Giovani dos Santos and Landon Donovan all on the field together, assuming the latter three are back in 2017. If Cyle Larin decides to go to Europe this winter, perhaps Orlando may try to lure Rooney and pair him with Kaka. Or maybe Rooney heads north to Montreal to replace Drogba and gets to play with Ignacio Piatti?
These are all hypotheticals, of course, but you get the point. The combination of these skilled attacking midfielders coupled with Rooney’s finishing skills could reap big rewards in MLS. The winter of Rooney awaits.