From clashes as grand as the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League to those as small as the golf courses of Manchester, England, there’s no shortage of history between Bastian Schweinsteiger and Wayne Rooney.
The global superstars are now set to go head-to-head once more when the Chicago Fire and D.C. United meet Sunday (Noon CT) for the first time in 2018 and the first time at Audi Field, all in front of a national TV audience on ESPN.
“He’s a great player,” Schweinsteiger said of Rooney. “For me, he understands the game really well. He’s always a threat for the opposing team. We have to keep an eye on him definitely.”
Prior to each player’s jump to Major League Soccer, the pair were teammates at Manchester United from 2015 -- when Schweinsteiger arrived after 13 seasons at FC Bayern Munich -- to early 2017 when Schweinsteiger departed for Chicago.
Joining Rooney at United marked a union of players whose respective career paths had crossed several times before. That includes the 2010 World Cup -- when Schweinsteiger's Germany dispatched Rooney's England 4-1 in the Round of 16 in South Africa -- as well as one particularly distinct memory playing in the 2014 UEFA Champions League quarterfinals at Old Trafford. Schweinsteiger picked up a first yellow card just before leveling the score 1-1 for the visitors in the 67th minute, but as regular time was expiring and while already on a caution, Schweinsteiger slid in for a challenge on Rooney that earned the German a controversial second yellow and a subsequent sending off.
“The first thing when I came to United, I thanked him again for that,” Schweinsteiger recalled with a smile.
FC Bayern would advance to the semifinals on a 4-2 aggregate, and the pair became teammates just over a year later in July, 2015. Despite that Champions League challenge, the mutual admiration for one another has been evident ever since.
“Off the field we played golf with each other. That was always fun. We had a good time in Manchester definitely.”
Since their respective arrivals stateside, the pair have made sizable impacts on both their clubs as well as MLS. D.C. have doubled their points per game since Rooney's signing on June 28th (0.83 to 1.64) and look poised to sneak into the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs as a result.
Coming off an impressive home win over LAFC, Schweinsteiger and the Fire will enter Audi Field on Sunday afternoon looking to halt D.C.'s newfound momentum and take a full three points from the latest intersection of Schweinsteiger's and Rooney's respective careers.
“He’s a huge impact for DC,” said Schweinsteiger, who from his recent role at centerback would no doubt have his share of run-ins with Rooney on Sunday. “I think also it helped them a lot to play in a new stadium as well. They made some changes as well. They really play well. I like watching them a lot, and I hope it’s going to be a good game for us.”