After the Impact Made Last Season, Wayne Rooney Looks to Guide D.C. United Further in 2019
D.C. United entered the 2018 season with a strange schedule. With Audi Field not 100% ready, the team had to open with a majority of their games on the road. The few times they were home featured a game at Maryland Soccer Plex and the US Naval Academy.
D.C. United was at the bottom of the MLS standings heading into the summer. Then by late June, news broke that the team acquired a major international superstar on the heels of the first true D.C. United home game of the season.
Wayne Rooney has had success in his international soccer career. Now he’s the face of soccer in our nation’s capital. From the moment fans greeted Rooney when he landed at Dulles Airport to early-November’s penalty kicks contest in the Knockout Round of the MLS Playoffs, it was a memorable first season for Rooney in the MLS.
On July 14 just after the second half began, Rooney took the Audi Field pitch for the first time as an official member of the black and red. He later assisted on Paul Arriola’s second goal of the game in the 80th minute to seal the 3-1 win.
“We saw what Wayne is – a high quality, elite soccer player. He didn’t lose possession, made some key passes and got on the end of a few balls in the box. This is what he’s going to do for us,” said D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen to the media after that win.
D.C. United entered that inaugural home game with just two wins. That first game at Audi Field was the start of something special. From July 14 through the end of the season, the club finished with a 12-4-4 record to earn a home game in the Knockout Round of the MLS Playoffs.
Rooney scored his first goal with D.C. United in his fourth game, a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. A few weeks later, Rooney made the play of the year chasing the ball down after a clear, stealing it, and launching a perfect pass to Luciano Acosta in the final seconds of stoppage time. Acosta finished it and D.C. United stole a victory from the jaws of a draw. Three important standings points that could’ve been just one.
“He made a hell of a play and it showed what he’s about. I think we’ll see that more and more from him here. He’s a selfless winner and has come here to prove himself, even though he doesn’t need to. He’s here to raise level of the group, including myself. And today, that play is indicative of who he is,” said Olsen after the game.
“It was strange, we went from losing the game basically to winning in the span of five seconds. It’s great, they’re the best games of football to win,” added Rooney.
Three nights later, Rooney had his first multi-goal game with two in a 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers. His scoring would become a regularity down the stretch. Rooney scored eight goals in D.C. United’s final seven games. In all, Rooney finished his first season with the black and red with 12 goals and seven assists.
D.C. United’s magical season came to an end on Nov. 1 in a close, hard-fought defeat to the Columbus Crew that ended in penalty kicks. That round of PK’s could’ve gone either way but the defeat will make Rooney and company hungry for an even better 2019.
Now that Rooney is entering his first full season with the club, he has the experience from 2018 under his belt and will look to use that home stretch success as fuel. There won’t be any schedule challenges for D.C. United of a road heavy first half. In fact, D.C. United is opening the new season at home against the defending champions, Atlanta United FC.
Our weeklong D.C. United preview series continues Wednesday as we look back on how the black and red did during the 2019 preseason.
Top photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports