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Rooney’s star still shines bright for table-toppers DC United

DC United

They are top of the pile in the MLS Eastern Conference and flying. What’s more they have one of the icons of the modern game playing with all the confidence in the world — yes, these are good times at DC United.

The icon in question is, of course, former England striker Wayne Rooney, who is revelling in his role as talisman for Ben Olsen’s side, currently at the summit ahead of second-placed Columbus with the same points tally of ten, but having played a game fewer and with a better goal difference.

DC head into Saturday’s game with LAFC at Audi Field brimming with confidence following a 2-1 victory over Orlando City SC last Sunday at Orlando City Stadium. Believe it or not, it was their first win on the road in 11 months of league action.

Head coach Olsen says grabbing the win came as a relief, adding: “It’s been a while since we were able to win on the road and it’s good to get this one out of the way. On the day, we weren’t very sharp, we looked like it was a real struggle for large portions of the game. Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s a bye week – just a hair off, and the sharpness just wasn’t there, technically and some of the decision-making.

“I think the group’s excited about the three points but they also understand it wasn’t the greatest night, and I think that’s a healthy balance for this group. Obviously, a big game coming up on the weekend, that we’ll be looking forward to.”

As you might guess, Rooney was on the scoresheet against City — he slotted away a wonderful free-kick — and also set up Steve Birnbaum’s opening goal. But despite his own personal glory and the triumph, his assessment was matter-of-fact, urging his team-mates to try to buy some time on the ball when they find themselves in difficult positions on the pitch.

Rooney, who shone in the Premier League with first Everton and then Manchester United — where he won silverware galore — explained: “I think when we won the ball back in our own half, we panicked a bit and were really just clearing it rather than composing ourselves, taking a touch or maybe a five-yard pass, which will open them up a little bit, then create a bit more space to hit them on the break.

“They had a lot of players in that area and one pass could’ve took four or even five players out of the game for us. But we didn’t do that, we defended well and then rather than playing out, we were just kicking it. That made it difficult, because the ball kept coming back in.”

Olsen says he was in no way surprised at Rooney’s strike and overall contribution, adding: “It’s what we got Wayne for, to make special plays, and he did that tonight. There’s no doubt that he tried that [goal] and he’s in really good form.”