WASHINGTON – Ahead of D.C. United’s final Atlantic Cup fixture of the regular season on Sunday (1 pm ET | ESPN - Full TV & Streaming Info), captain Wayne Rooney says he empathizes with New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips’ journey out of from the shadow of his famous father and older brother.
He recalls how his younger brother John Rooney came to the US and joined the Red Bulls for the 2011 season, in part “to get away from the pressure of being my younger brother.”
Wright-Phillips’ father is legendary Arsenal forward Ian Wright, and his older brother is former Manchester City and Chelsea winger Shaun-Wright Phillips. And although Bradley Wright-Phillips’ initial trial with the Red Bulls was more of a last chance than an escape, Rooney knows the expectation a bloodline can bring in England.
“I’m sure in some ways [Brad] had that with his older brother and his father,” Rooney said Friday. “So I think the decision was the right decision for him to come here and play. And he’s been a real success.”
Rooney has four boys of his own, with the eldest, eight-year-old Kai Wayne, now playing in his own youth games.
And in this modern era, Rooney knows if any of his sons reach the professional level, there will be no escaping his legacy at England and Manchester United, and maybe D.C. as well.
“When that time comes, if it does come, that’s something that they’ll have to deal with,” Rooney says. “But as a parent, it’s just letting them find their own way and what they enjoy doing.
“My oldest boy now, he plays football. He does it because he wants to. It’s not because me or my wife are putting any pressure on him. If he turns around and says he doesn’t want to do it, then that’s fine. I like him to do what he enjoys.”
For Wright-Phillips, his father at least played in a time when there wasn’t nearly as much global access to the English game.
And he embraces the family tradition at times, also, such as when he became the quickest player in MLS history to score 100 goals.
After reaching the milestone at Audi Field on July 25, in the first of a pair of 1-0 Red Bulls wins over D.C. this season, he peeled off his red No. 99 jersey to reveal a white No. 100 Red Bulls kit beneath. Almost 21 years prior, Ian Wright had celebrated his then-Arsenal record 179th goal with a T-shirt that read “179: Just Done It,” playing off a certain kit supplier’s slogan.
In the end, comparison between people of similar backgrounds are inescapable. Take Rooney’s answer on Wednesday night, when asked if D.C. teammate Luciano Acosta resembled anyone he used to play with, comparing the Argentine to another attacker from that country.
“I’ve played with a lot of different players,” Rooney said. “I don’t know, maybe a [Carlos] Tevez-type player? Something like that.”