PALM DESERT, Calif. — Everton FC’s hiring of Sean Dyche as coach Monday ended speculation that the Premier League club might target D.C. United Coach Wayne Rooney, who has deep ties to the Toffees.
Rooney’s name came up regularly in English circles before and after Frank Lampard was fired last week, and Rooney has said he would like to coach in the Premier League someday. On Monday, however, he said he was never approached by Everton.
“It’s the club I grew up supporting and loving,” he said. “They are going through a very difficult period in the club’s history and they felt they had to change. Sean Dyche is very experienced. It was always going to be an experienced manager.”
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Dyche, who was fired by Burnley last spring after a 10-year tenure, signed a 2½-year contract with Everton, which is 19th in the 20-team league and in danger of relegation for the first time since 1954.
Rooney joined Everton’s youth academy at age 9 and signed a pro contract at 16. He played two seasons for the first team before moving to Manchester United, where he reached superstardom, then returned to Everton in 2017. A year later, he signed with D.C. United as a player for 1½ seasons.
Rooney’s coaching contract with D.C. United is guaranteed only through this MLS season — he took the job last summer — and includes a club option for 2024.
“It was what I felt was right,” he said of the short-term deal. “There were questions I wanted to know the answers to from the owners: What players could we bring in and make sure I got what I wanted to build the squad?”
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Asked whether he has gotten what he has wanted this offseason, Rooney said, “You always want more. The players we brought in, I am happy. I am confident we will have a good season and hopefully we will get one or two players in before the [transfer] window [closes this spring]. If not, we can see where we are in midseason” when the summer window opens.
He added, “We are still looking, but with the budget the way it works, we are looking for the right player in the right position.”
Mateusz Klich, United’s prized winter signing from Premier League club Leeds, is scheduled to receive his work visa and join the club this week, Rooney said.
Klich, an attacker, signed with United on Jan. 12 and met his new teammates in Washington but needed to return to Europe as the visa process played out.
Klich is slated to make his preseason debut next Monday against MLS Cup champion Los Angeles FC at the Coachella Valley Invitational in Indio, Calif., Rooney said.
Rooney added that Klich has continued working out with Leeds fitness coaches as he awaits resolution of the visa process.
Plans for Coachella matches
United will open the Coachella tournament Wednesday with a 90-minute match against Charlotte FC and a 45-minute session against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Rooney said he will play many regulars 75 minutes against Charlotte, then insert reserves, who will then play the entire 45 against the Whitecaps.
Several players are unavailable, including four center backs: Steven Birnbaum (illness), Derrick Williams (thigh), Donovan Pines (recovering from hernia surgery) and Brendan Hines-Ike (foot surgery). Williams, a projected starter acquired from the Los Angeles Galaxy in the offseason, is out for a few weeks, Rooney said.
On Wednesday, Matai Akinmboni, 16, will partner in central defense with Andy Najar, a right back and winger.
Najar, who is battling Brazilian newcomer Ruan for the starting job at right back, has been “brilliant in preseason,” Rooney said.
Midfielder Victor Palsson, who could play center back, is a week away from returning from a hamstring injury.
Goalkeeper situation unsettled
Alex Bono, one of three new goalkeepers on the roster, is slated to start the Charlotte match, Rooney said. Tyler Miller — who like Bono signed a free agent contract with United this winter — started the 3-2 defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy last week in Carson, Calif.
Luis Zamudio, who played for second-tier Loudoun United last year, is scheduled to start against Vancouver.
“I want them all to have a good amount of time in the first two or three games, so I can see them properly and then make a decision” about who starts the season opener Feb. 25 against Toronto FC, Rooney said. “They have all trained really well. They are pushing each other, so it’s what I wanted.”
Midfielder Ravel Morrison, who followed Rooney to United from Derby County last summer, might be on his way out.
“He’s speaking with the club,” Rooney said. “He’s been training well, but I know there are some conversations about what we do in the future.” …
Former Vancouver coach Carl Robinson is close to signing a contract to join the staff as an assistant, Rooney said.
“I felt it was important we had another coach in who knows the league, and obviously he has experience as a head coach,” Rooney said. “I spoke to him several times this winter, and it felt like a great fit.” …
Midfielder Alex Nagy, a draft pick last winter who signed with Loudoun United this month, is training with the first team and could earn an MLS contract. …
Midfielder Aidan Rocha, a second-round draft pick from Georgetown, remains in camp. …
Ignacio “Nacho” Alem, a 16-year-old attacker from the youth academy, is also in camp and could become a homegrown signing target this year.