DC United started the season strongly and they look like real contenders for the MLS Cup, sitting on top of the Eastern Conference through 7 games. Wayne Rooney, their star striker, has brought the team to new heights after leading DC United on an incredible run to the playoffs last year. When he arrived mid season, DC United sat in last place with only two wins from 12 games. Making the payoffs seemed to be a long shot at best. Rooney came on as a sub on July 14 in his first game to help lead the team to a 3-1 win. The team continued to win throughout the rest of the season. Rooney led the team with 12 goals. DC United won 12 and tied 4 of their last 20 games, sending them into the playoffs. DC United improved from last (11th) place all the way up to 4th place.
Wayne Rooney may have been the central figure, but many other players contributed to the run. Wayne Rooney’s attacking partner was Luciano Acosta, who experienced a resurgence in the second half of the season. Acosta had 10 goals and 17 assists in the season, both more than double his previous season (5 goals, 4 assists). Most of these came in the second half of the season (9 goals, 11 assists). DC United also added goalie Bill Hamid in August, improving the defense. Finally, since their new stadium, Audi Field did not open until July 14, DC United finished with almost all home games in the second half of the season. Before their last game, they had 7 games at Audi Field in a row. All of these factors, alongside the signing of Wayne Rooney, contributed to the remarkable turnaround of DC United.
His impact is still on display. Rooney is the main playmaker for DC United and has led DC United to first place in the their conference. After 7 games, their record is 4 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss. He leads the team with 4 goals. As captain, he led them to a dominant 2-0 win over defending champions Atlanta United in their opener. This win was a great way to start their season. They immediately reminded the league of their late season form. DC United completely controlled the game. Atlanta United only had 2 shots on goals all game. Acosta starred in this game with a goal and assist. Their second game was another tough test.
DC United played New York City FC in their first away game of the season. The game finished in a scoreless draw thanks to good defense and great goalkeeping. Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson, New York’s goalie, both made incredible saves. Sean Johnson made his save on a shot by Luciano Acosta in the 11th minute. Bill Hamid also had his own excellent save. In the dying minutes of the match, Bill Hamid dived to his right after a header. It was an amazing reaction save that earned DC United a draw.
After their draw, DC United returned home to face Real Salt Lake. Rooney scored the first hat trick of his MLS career in a 5-0 win. The game broke wide open after 2 red cards from Real Salt Lake. Rooney got his first goal on a PK. His second came after he received a through ball. He chipped the ball over the goalie to give DC United a 2-0 lead. His final goal came after some very nice passing resulted in a cross which Rooney scored with a sliding finish. DC United had a huge opportunity in their next game.
DC United beat Orlando 2-1 in their second away game. Wayne Rooney won the Man of the Match after an assist and a goal. Both goals came from free kicks by Wayne Rooney. Steve Birnbaum headed home the first goal after a pinpoint cross from Wayne Rooney. Wayne Rooney curled the second one in himself, an amazing free kick from the left side of the goal box. DC United had an impressive streak come to an end. They conceded their first goal of the season, the longest time without conceding for any team this year.
DC United suffered their first defeat of the season to LAFC, probably the best team in the MLS at the moment. LAFC won 4-0 after Rooney was sent off after a reckless slide tackle and DC United had to play a man down. This left DC United without an attacking force up front and LAFC took advantage of their extra man. Due to his red card, Rooney was suspended one game. After their loss DC United dropped to second in the Eastern Conference standings. Their next game would be their first full game without Rooney since he arrived.
DC United played Montreal in a game where they looked lost up front. Without Rooney, DC United did not even manage a single shot on target. This game put the Rooney Effect on full display. Since Rooney was not able to play, DC United put Ulises Segura at forward, Rooney’s position. This did not work that well mostly because Segura is a midfielder and had to play the game out of position. Without Rooney, DC United lacks an attacking force. They looked like the team that was in last place at the beginning of last season. Luckily for DC United, Rooney was back for their next game.
DC United beat the Colorado Rapids 3-2 with Rooney back in the lineup. They scored all 3 of their goals in 9 minutes towards the end of the first half. Colorado scored the first goal. Acosta got the equalizer in the 35th minute. Chris Durkin, a homegrown player from Glen Allen, Virginia scored the second goal in the 38th minute. It was the first goal of his career. Lucas Rodriguez scored the last goal in the 43rd minute. DC United used a 5-4-1 formation with Rooney as the lone striker. His attacking presence allowed other players to get open and score goals.
With the addition of Rooney last year, DC United steadily rose up the standings on a great run all the way up to 4th place. However, they lost on a PK shootout to Columbus in the playoffs.This year, their late season form has carried over, propelling DC United to 1st place in the standings. Their strong start marks them as a real contender for the MLS Cup and a team you do not want to play. Rooney is the key factor for the team. Without him, they do not to perform at the same level. DC United should maintain their current pace and finish the season near the top of the standings. They might even earn the top seed for the playoffs.