Sometimes the beautiful game tells beautiful stories. Thursday night provided us a reminder of that.
No, it wasn’t the 4-1 loss, which snapped FCC’s two-game winning streak.
This story is about Wayne Rooney and Justin Hoyte.
We all know about Rooney and his accolades. The former England international is a living legend at Manchester United, where he played 393 games, scored 183 goals and helped lift one domestic and continental trophy after another.
And Cincinnati fans know about Hoyte, too. The former Arsenal player who played for his boyhood club in the English Premier League and has gone on to have an impressive career of his own.
On Thursday night, they met again at Nippert Stadium. Rooney was D.C. United’s lone target man up top, while Hoyte was playing center back. That the former Manchester United and Arsenal player faced one another isn’t necessarily remarkable – that happened at those respective clubs, then again when Hoyte was at Middlesbrough.
But the match was a reminder of two things: one, this big world can still feel small; two, professional soccer players can have remarkable careers that in one way or another always realign.
For the former, that two players can play in England for clubs and a decade later rematch across the Atlantic Ocean is very, very cool. That shouldn’t be downplayed.
As for the latter, it’s remarkable to consider how Hoyte and Rooney got to this point.
Rooney is one of the two-biggest names in MLS. The other is Zlatan.
The Englishman, who joined D.C. United last summer, is an example of a former European power coming to America to play in MLS, adjust to living in a new country and thriving. Truthfully, he doesn’t need to be here, but it makes the league better.
And then there’s Hoyte’s story.
Yeah, there’s a stereotype about older European-based players moving here to play until they retire. But no one really talks about the second type of European player – the ones who come here for a career revival. Mr. Hoyte falls into that category.
Having played in the top five tiers of English football, the defender eventually found himself going on trial in Ireland to play. While there, he learned about an opportunity to come play in the United States at FC Cincinnati.
So, Hoyte came on trial, impressed an earned a contract with a second-year USL club. Three summers later, he’s worn the captain armband for the Orange and Blue in MLS and has become synonymous with the club’s success story.
Hoyte himself is a success story.
As a result, it was beautiful seeing his career realign with Rooney. The two players play different positions and have played at different clubs at different levels, but on Thursday night, that didn’t matter. All that mattered was they were opponents playing each other once again as it was when Rooney and Hoyte were playing for the biggest clubs in England last decade.
If that never happens again, we’re fortunate we were witnesses – even if we would’ve preferred a different outcome.