Wayne Rooney made a huge impact in terms of putting DC United on the map when he switched to the MLS from Premier League side Everton last summer. And the former Manchester United and England striker did his talking on the pitch, too, contributing valuable goals and assists to justify DC’s decision to recruit him.
Now in his second season at the club, Rooney doesn’t take to the pitch to so much fanfare these days but no one can dispute that he is still making a valuable contribution. So much so, in fact, that DC United sit in second spot in the Eastern Conference table on the same points as Philadelphia Union with 11 games gone and both on 20 points. Only goal difference keeps the two teams apart. Montreal Impact are in third position with three points fewer.
Manager Ben Olsen takes his charges into a home game against Sporting KC next time of asking (May 13) following a 3-1 win over Columbus Crew in their previous league outing. And the boss says he is content with the progress made so far this campaign and also with the consistency of Rooney.
He said: “I think if you had asked me in January if I’d take 20 points at this point in the season, I’d probably be OK with that. It’s been a little bit of a grind the last couple of weeks and we’ve chugged along.” The manner in which Rooney operates alongside strike partner Luciano Acosta is another pleasing aspect to the season so far for Olsen.
He added: “I think that’s what so great about Wayne. He’s not a guy that’s different from day to day, or week to week, or season to season. He does what he does. He’s a good teammate. He’s engaged in the process. He’s engaged with his teammates, it matters to him, he’s competitive, he shows up whether it’s in training or in games. And he makes plays. He’s respected by the group. People want to know: Has he changed? It’s been more of the same.”
Meanwhile, Olsen and the club’s medical team are still assessing rookie defender Donovan Pines, 21, after he suffered a knee injury in the victory over Crew. Pines looks set to miss a few games and he will be missed as he has become a valuable asset – a fact acknowledged by Olsen.
He said: “He is doing quite well. I thought he had a great game. He is becoming a little bit of a cult hero out there. He bails us out with his legs and his ability to read the game — he does it five times a half. He is going to be a good player for this team for years to come.”
Pines has spoken of his willingness to continue his football education, adding: “I just love learning — learning from all the guys in the back. They’ve just taken me under their wing, and they’re helping me out. It’s just been really a blessing to play with them, and I just want to do the best I can for the team and for the players around me.”