Two longtime European soccer icons will take center stage late Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium when the Wayne Rooney-led D.C. United visits New York City FC and David Villa.
Rooney, the longtime English international and Premier League star at Manchester United and Everton, has four goals and five assists in 11 appearances with the Black-and-Red since coming over on a transfer two months ago. D.C. United (8-11-6, 30 points) has gone since 6-4-1 since his debut in a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 14 and has moved within six points of sixth-place Montreal for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with nine games remaining, seven of which will be played at Audi Field.
Villa, Spain’s all-time leading goal scorer and a key member of the 2010 World Cup winners, has 10 goals in just 18 games, limited by injury this season. NYCFC (14-8-6, 48), which suffered its first home loss of the season on Wednesday, 1-0, to the New England Revolution, is 4-2-1 in its last seven games and enters the contest in third place, seven points behind the first-place New York Red Bulls.
“It’ll be a difficult game,” NYCFC midfielder Maxi Moralez, who has eight goals and a team-best seven assists, said. “Obviously they have recently increased their quality with Rooney. Internationally he’s a star. But we have our own thing - a great squad that’s been at the top of the table.”
Both teams will be shorthanded because of players leaving for international duty. NYCFC will be without midfielders Ebenezer Ofori (Ghana) and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Libya), who has scored a team leading 11 goals, as well defenders Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica) and Maxime Chanot (Luxembourg). Midfielder Alex Ring will also sit out the game because of yellow card accumulation.
D.C. United will be without six players, four of them regulars: midfielders Paul Arriola (United States), Zoltan Stieber (Hungary) and Junior Moreno (Venezuela); forwards Darren Mattocks (Jamaica) and Bruno Miranda (Bolivia); and defender Oniel Fisher (Jamaica).
“Every team has to deal with it,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said. “They’re in the same boat. They’ve got a few internationals gone as well so there will be no excuses, and we need to figure out the best group to get a result in a tough place to play.”
--Field Level Media