Rooney eager for chance to face countryman Beckham

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — New York Red Bulls midfielder John Rooney got on the phone with his brother Wayne this week, but this weekly chat wasn’t quite like all the others.

And of course, his brother is no ordinary brother. But even Manchester United star Wayne Rooney was talking about his younger brother’s big game this weekend, and wondering if John would find his way onto the 18-man roster when the Red Bulls suit up against David Beckham and the LA Galaxy on Saturday (11 pm ET, ESPN2/Deportes).

“It’d be a great experience, wouldn’t it, to play against the [former] England captain?” John Rooney told MLSsoccer.com. “I’ve been working hard this week and hope to be a part of the squad for Saturday. It is something I’m looking forward to.”

It has been a transitional year so far for Rooney, who was taken in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft after three seasons with English League Two side Macclesfield Town. He made his MLS debut three weeks ago, playing the final moments of a 3-0 New York win over San Jose.

He’s been a regular in the 18 players chosen by head coach Hans Backe for most matches, even as he still has just the one appearance to his name so far this season.

But with each week, Rooney seems to become more and more comfortable with his new teammates and his surroundings. He’s become active in training and shown a shrewd ability to pick his moments to move forward into the attack, evidenced by his play for the reserves when they scrimmage the Starting XI.

He’s also plucky in defense, not afraid to get stuck in or back down when a more imposing player such as Thierry Henry challenges him for the ball.

And from time to time, he has displayed an ability to shoot from distance as well.

“It has been good, really rather good so far,” he said. “I’ve been enjoying every moment since I first got here. The quality of the team is fantastic and all the players really are a good bunch of guys. The play is good; even the training sessions [are] really competitive.”

And on Saturday night, Rooney is hopeful that perhaps he can make his encore appearance in MLS against Beckham. That would be perhaps the prime moment of his career thus far, and certainly something to share for the Rooney family album.

“It would be special given the players they have on their team,” Rooney said. “I’d like to be a part of it, help us get that win.”