Wayne Rooney has had a dramatic affect in his short time playing football in Major League Soccer.
The Capital club in the United States has high hopes again, as D.C. United eyes the MLS post-season.
When Wayne Rooney signed with D.C. United, the comments about ‘another aging European’ flew around the internet. Naturally, English football fans and the press gave it to him just as expected.
Let’s not make light of the fact that there is truth to the ‘aging International players’ issue in the United States. The list of players who have come to MLS and haven’t fulfilled expectations is growing. For example, Kaka set up Orlando City FC for an #epicfail, signing with the team — the team even built a new stadium — only for him to retire.
On the other hand, Wayne Rooney inked a 3-1/2 year deal with D.C. United in June, which included the second half of this year’s MLS season, and has already made quite an impression.
The 32-years-old officially signed his contract to join D.C. United on June 28, and made his first appearance on the field on July 14. D.C. United were stuck on 11 points as they entered their match with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Rooney came on as a 58′ substitute for D.C. United in a 1 – 0 game at the time. D.C. United went up 2 – 0 before Rooney assisted on the third goal for the Capital club, en route to a 3 – 1 home win at Audi Field.
Despite the two losses that followed his first appearance with DC United, Rooney was given the Captain’s arm band after only 3 games with the team.
‘The Rooney Effect’ has led to a 19-point gain in the Eastern Conference standings since July 14. D.C. United went from battling among the cellar dwellers to being in the hunt for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Ironically, Rooney scored his first goal with the Capital side against his former clubmate Tim Howard. The two played at Manchester United together from 2004 – 2007, although Howard was there a year before Rooney. There is no comparison to the impact that Rooney had at Man U, and now he is setting Major League Soccer on fire.
Speaking of impact, D.C. United drew 1 – 1 with Montreal in Rooney’s second game as D.C. United captain. What happened next is one of the most memorable moments of this year’s MLS season.
D.C. United hosted Orlando City on August 12 in the first of an important three-game home stand. As you can see by looking at the scoreboard, D.C. United came a way with a 3 – 2 win. How did it finish? Have a look for yourself, and save it in your memory for the goal of the season.
In a 2 – 2 game in which D.C. United has seemingly had a point in hand, Ben Olsen made a huge decision. Olsen pulled his goalkeeper with one minute left in extra time to, instead, go for the three points. The rest is pure, unadulterated magic from Wayne Rooney. Will Johnson had a world of space in front of him, and an empty D.C. United net to boot. Rooney obviously chased the youngster down, pulled off an impressive tackle, made three touches and sent a ball in to the 18-yard box.
Maybe all of this stems back to Rooney not being asked to play for England at the 2018 World Cup.
‘The Rooney Snub’ is also something he has used as motivation, as he was left off England’s squad for the World Cup in Russia. Despite helping the English side in qualifying, he was expecting to be given one of the 23 shirts allowed. After the announcement from manager Peter Shilton that Rooney was excluded, he hung up his International boots.
The latest installment of ‘The Rooney Effect’ came again this past Sunday for D.C. United. First place Atlanta made a visit to Audi Field, facing a desperate United squad needing points to survive. Just last weekend, Atlanta’s Josef Martinez broke the all-time MLS single-season scoring record.
Once again assuming the leadership role, Rooney directed D.C. United to another big 3 – 1 win at home. Rooney’s new team now sit at 30 points on the season, facing a mere 6-point deficit from the final playoff position in the East. Oh and by the way, Rooney converted a penalty kick and assisted on the other two goals from Luciano Acosta.
Also in their favor, D.C. United have 3 games in hand over almost every team in the conference. D.C. United has only played 25 games through September 2, while most teams have played 27 or 28 already. Those could be huge points down the stretch for a team that is hoping to completely turn around their 2018 season.
How long will ‘The Rooney Effect’ be felt? We will find out that answer over the next two months, as D.C. United hope to return to the post-season after finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference a year ago.