When Wayne Rooney came to D.C. United, he could not have arrived at a better time. The team had an awkward schedule consisting of mainly road dates as state of the art Audi Field was under construction. As a result, United got off to a slow start with a record of 2-7-5. His midsummer arrival came around the time Audi Field was set to open it’s doors and the results for both the team and player have been positive.
D.C. United won their home opener 3-1 over Vancouver in mid-July which began a stretch where the club has gone 9-2-1 including a big 2-1 comeback win Sunday afternoon over the Chicago Fire.
“The second half of the season has been so fun. I think it’s fun for the fans. It’s definitely fun for us, and to continue to push ourselves to a playoff spot is great,” said Paul Arriola.
The recent win was a contest that saw Rooney carry the club on his back, scoring both goals and was close on multiple occasions of having a hat trick.
“I think after they scored we got better. Since halftime, it was a pretty even game. First half we probably had the best chances. (In the early second half) they scored and we responded very well. These are games we have to win,” said Rooney.
D.C. United came out charging early riding on the energy of the sold-out crowd. Rooney had a great shot from beyond midfield just over 10 minutes in. Although Fire goalie Stefan Cleveland stopped it, Rooney’s deep shot drew cheers from the crowd.
D.C. United looked like they had a tally in the 21st minute as Luciano Acosta gave a quick feed to Rooney for the goal but the officials waved it off due to Acosta committing an infraction penalty.
The Fire struck first in the 51st minute, causing a bit of concern. That’s when Rooney stepped up even more. D.C. United would tie the game in the 62nd minute. Rooney’s efforts were finally rewarded thanks to this rebound.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 7, 2018
Rooney struck again in the 82nd minute and the team hung on to ensure they came away with three points. The goal came on a penalty kick after Junior Moreno drew a foul.
Who else? Wayne Rooney from the spot puts D.C. United up 2-1. pic.twitter.com/owISTy7N94
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 7, 2018
Rooney’s final stat line from Sunday afternoon: two goals on eight shots including five on target on 70 touches.
“He did lay it all out there. He usually does. It’s in his DNA. He’s chipping in. He’s doing a bit in front of the goal and has helped with the group in the locker room. He’s been great,” said D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen.
Rooney’s two-goal effort gave him nine on the season and was the second consecutive game he scored twice, which occurred eight days ago when they blanked Montreal 5-0.
“The type of leadership that he brings to the table and the type of player that he is, I think that’s where it (the belief to win) mainly comes from,” Arriola added.
Many players on the team grew up watching Rooney in his prime when he played for Manchester United. Nick DeLeon was one of those players and when he was asked how much of an impact Rooney had made on him, his face lit up like a Christmas tree.
“For me personally, it’s incredible. I grew up watching Man U, that was my team back when Rooney was like the pinnacle and he still is in my eyes,” DeLeon said. “He raises the level of everybody around him and I think that’s really what he’s done for this team. He brings the best out of everybody.”
It seems like every week we’ve said it’s an important match coming up for D.C. United. It’s just part of the business of chasing for that last playoff spot.
“I feel the same way as I did before. We just have to keep pushing. We have another ‘most important game of the season’ next weekend,” said Olsen.
The latest “most important game of the season” occurs Saturday evening against FC Dallas. Kickoff is around 5 p.m.