VANCOUVER, BC – Jordon Mutch has mixed memories of his first encounter with all-time Manchester United and England leading scorer Wayne Rooney.
On the one hand, it was a special moment in Mutch’s career, as he was making his English Premier League debut at the famed Old Trafford stadium. On the other, Manchester United beat Mutch’s Birmingham City FC 5-0 and Rooney had two assists.
He’s hoping this weekend will be a different story.
Mutch and the ‘Caps face D.C. United on Saturday and Rooney is expected to make his Major League Soccer debut as D.C. unveils their brand-new Audi Field.
“That was during his younger days when he was frightening playing with Berbatov,” Mutch said of first meeting with Rooney. “That was an eye-opener on my debut playing against world-class players.”
Mutch isn’t the only ‘Caps player to have faced Rooney.
Kei Kamara did so well as a member of Norwich City FC, and they didn’t fare much better, losing 4-0. Rooney had a goal and two assists in that game. That was a long time ago, however, and Kamara and the ‘Caps are heading into Saturday’s match full of confidence after a thrilling 3-2 win over Chicago Fire.
“He’s going to know MLS is not a retirement league,” Kamara said. “It’s physical, but I know he’s a competitor, somebody that I’ve watched personally. It’s great for D.C., opening a beautiful stadium, and for us to be a part of that is going to be history. But it’s all about us. It’s not about Rooney or D.C.”
After missing nine straight matches with a knee sprain, Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic is in contention to return to action on Saturday. He’s faced several top attacking players in the past and said Rooney would probably be among the top three with Ronaldo and Javier Hernández.
“I concentrate on my own performances,” Marinovic said. “If you make a mistake, that’s what haunts you, not the player himself … You always want to measure yourself against the best and he is or was, depending on your opinion, I think is a world-class striker.”
The ’Caps know Saturday will be a big test – and Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson is confident his side will be up for the challenge.
“I'm sure [Rooney will] put more bums on seats and I'm sure he'll bring more smiles on faces in crowds,” said Robinson, who twice faced Rooney himself in a pair of 2006 World Cup qualifiers. “But we've got to make sure that doesn't happen on the weekend and don't get caught up in it all, because they're opening their stadium. Maybe we can go and be spoilers."
Kickoff for Saturday’s match is set for 5 p.m. PT on TSN1 and 1410 AM radio.