There are plenty of soccer stories these days. Let’s take a look.
World Cup: The world’s biggest sports event — okay, maybe the Summer Olympics are bigger — has shown off the best and the worst of the beautiful game.
The best? The incredible ballhandling and scoring skills of the world’s best players, as well as the acrobatic saves of the goalkeepers. Fabulous heart-stopping finishes to some games. Did you see Belgium’s end-to-end third goal against Japan? Or Russia’s second goal against Croatia, which sent the match into penalty kicks?
And there have been many memorable matchups: Portugal vs. Spain . . . Germany vs. Mexico . . . Brazil vs. Belgium. It’s almost enough to make American soccer fans forget that their team isn’t in the tournament.
The worst? Teams that play rough, dirty soccer. Players who flop on the ground hoping the referee will call a foul and maybe award a penalty kick. And then there’s the constant arguing with the referees and other officials. Some of these guys set a terrible example for kids.
Now we are down to one final match on Sunday in Moscow, the capital of Russia, between France and Croatia. Hopefully, it will be a fitting end to a memorable World Cup.
Wayne Rooney: Closer to home, the big soccer news is that Wayne Rooney signed a contract to play for D.C. United for the next 2½ years. Rooney is the all-time leading scorer for Manchester United and England’s national team and a true soccer legend.
But Rooney is also 32 years old. That’s getting old for a soccer player. Notice that he is no longer playing for England’s World Cup team.
The question is: How much does Rooney have left? Can he help the struggling United, who are in last place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference with a record of 2-7-5 (two wins, seven losses and five draws).
I think he can. After all, the MLS is not the Premier League. MLS is probably a level or two below the world-class English circuit. My guess is that Rooney has enough scoring magic left to find the back of many MLS nets.
Audi Field: The other big local soccer news is that Rooney and his teammates will be playing 15 of United’s remaining 20 games in a new stadium. D.C. United has a spectacular 20,000-seat home a few blocks from Nationals Park in Southwest Washington.
Scheduled to open Saturday, the new field has steep-sided stands surrounding the pitch so the fans will feel part of the action. It should be a big improvement over the 57-year-old RFK Stadium, where United played from 1996 until last fall. RFK had rusty railings and was missing chunks of concrete. There may have been more rodents than fans at some games.
No more. Soccer is getting big in Washington.