Jim Rooney is hoping to utilize his years of MLS playing experience to help his players with Boca Raton FC of the NPSL.
“It was a very positive thing, I’ve lived here since 1998,” Rooney said. “It’s very rare to be able to coach in your hometown, I got a call asking if I wanted to become the head coach and I said ‘sure, where?’ And they said Boca Raton, so I said ‘that works.’”
Rooney, who spent most of his professional playing career with the Miami Fusion, is glad to be coaching in his adopted hometown. Along with the sense of pride he has to contribute to the future of Florida soccer.
“I really believe in the Florida community and that there is a market for soccer here,” Rooney said. “There have been a lot of people who I think could have gone on to play in the MLS but they didn’t have the right leagues like the NPSL to help develop and that’s part of what I think is so important.”
Rooney’s professional career began with the Long Island Rough Riders in 1994, where he remained until 1997 when he joined the New York MetroStars, now the New York Red Bulls, of MLS. From there the central midfielder joined former MLS club Miami Fusion where he made 67 appearances and scored 12 goals. Rooney finished his career with stints with the New England Revolution and a return to the Rough Riders.
Following his playing career, Rooney became an assistant coach for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and also joined the staff of the U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team in 2014, where he coached a great deal of young American talent, including Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic. In 2016, Rooney joined Jacksonville Armada FC’s NASL side as an assistant coach. Then in 2017 Rooney got the call from Boca Raton FC to become their head coach.
The decision to hire Rooney as the head coach was an easy one for Boca Raton FC President Douglas Heizer.
“From the second Jim’s name was brought up I knew he would be the perfect person to guide this team,” Heizer said. “He’s the perfect person for Boca Raton FC and our future plans. We want to continue to build a winner in Boca Raton and with Jim Rooney at the helm that is something I am confident we will accomplish.”
Rooney’s playing career has become a major influence on how he approaches coaching. In 2001, Rooney had a breakout year for the Miami Fusion, where he helped his squad to a Supporter’s Shield victory and was named an MLS All-Star. Rooney credits the successful season to his coach, Ray Hudson.
“(Ray Hudson) called me to dinner and told me, ‘I want you to be our captain,’” Rooney said. “And it was one of those things where he had a belief in me…those things have never left me and I try to be honest with players and I try to get the most out of the players, but the belief that Ray had in me is something that has never left me, and right now I want to give my players the opportunity to go out there and really play.”
Rooney also spent time both playing with and against MLS and Columbian National Team legend Carlos Valderrama, another experience Rooney is planning on bringing to his coaching with Boca Raton FC: he wants his players to step up to the challenge of a tough conference.
“Well I played with Carlos for around ten games before he left for Tampa Bay, but also got to play against him, which was a lot of fun…some guys back down when they play great players but for me, I was excited, I wanted to challenge him I wanted to tackle him,” Rooney said. “We play Jacksonville we play Miami, but I don’t want our players to be afraid to play, and if they play well against those good teams, I think the confidence will grow.”
In terms of player development, Rooney believes there’s a great opportunity for player development across the country with the Commisso proposal. The Commisso proposal is an offer from New York Cosmos Owner Rocco B. Commisso to inject $500 million into the American game to both revive the North American Soccer league and help lower division soccer. Commisso plans to use $250 million of his own money and has plans to raise the other $250 million if the U.S. Soccer Federation agrees to a 10-year compliance plan, which includes the introduction of promotion and relegation the USSF’s professional leagues by 2020.
Rooney understands the issues on both sides but believes the proposal and its conditions could greatly improve the development and future of the game in the United States, as well as make an immediate improvement.
“I think for the game itself, it’s an extremely positive thing and it has to be taken seriously,” Rooney said. “I think he’s working to make soccer in America better…now I understand that both sides have arguments, but I think they at least need to go to the table and talk to him. I look at it from a player’s perspective, and it’s a super positive thing,”
As far as promotion and relegation, Rooney believes the idea should (at least) be introduced to the lower levels of American soccer.
“The lower levels would be the perfect venue to try something like (promotion and relegation) to see how it works,” Rooney said. “This is a great opportunity for U.S. young players to get better and work at their craft, and I think that’s a real positive thing. Right now, I think tensions are a bit high…but I think it’s certainly worth talking about.”
As far as Boca Raton FC, Rooney is focused on not only developing his team, but reaching the playoffs in a tough conference.
“We are in a tough conference…but our goal is to make the playoffs,” Rooney said. “I need our players to know that we can compete with these players (in our conference) and then it’s up to them to believe it when they get out there.”
Contributor: Daniel Cermak/NPSL.com
Photo Credit: BRFC Communication Staff