Editorial (July 24, 2018) – Wayne Rooney was given an MLS baptism of fire this week and it is fair to say the legendary striker had a bit of a nightmare. The 32-year-old might have been hoping for a tranquil denouement to his career after trading the cut and thrust of the Premiership for D.C. United. But any such dreams were dashed in brutal fashion by a rampant Atlanta United side, who ran rings around Rooney and his teammates. The Eastern Conference leaders were good value for their win and it saw them open up a 30-point lead over Rooney’s new franchise.
Wayne Rooney gets MLS baptism by fire against Atlanta United FC
It started well for D.C. United, as Zoltan Stieber opened the scoring for the visitors inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. But then Rooney aimed a dreadful pass into midfield, an opponent seized upon it and the loose ball and it was rapidly in the back of the D.C. United net. He had a chance to make amends shortly after, but his free-kick went straight into the wall, and his follow up strike was abysmal. Atlanta went on to win 3-1 and Rooney was booked for throwing Chris McCann to the floor, before coach Ben Olsen hauled him off with 24 minutes of the match remaining.
It was an extremely underwhelming debut for Man Utd’s and England’s record goalscorer. Contrast that with former Man Utd teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who recorded a goal and an assist as LA Galaxy came from behind to beat Philadelphia Union 3-1 on the same day. The victory left his team just eight points off the pace in the Western Conference and on course for a post-season run, highlighting his positive impact since joining. His debut could not have gone more perfectly, as he came off the bench with his team losing 2-1 to LAFC, beat the goalkeeper with an outrageous lob from distance and then nodded in the winner from an Ashley Cole cross in the dying moments of the game.
D.C. United fans hoping for a similar impact from Rooney were left disappointed. This was not the same Rooney that put Manchester City to the sword with a bicycle kick, terrorized Arsenal on a regular basis, led Man United to the Champions League title and won all manner of trophies in England. To be fair to him, there are mitigating circumstances. He was always going to be rusty, as he has not had a pre-season and he was thrown straight in at the deep end. He is also playing for one of the worst teams in the league this season, so chances will be few and far between. Check a review of YouWager and you will see that the best sportsbooks on the market make D.C. United the clear underdog in most games.
“Today was a difficult game,” said Rooney. “Atlanta are top of the league and they’re a good team. We knew it was going to be a difficult game. We knew it was going to be tough. We had to hang in there at times and unfortunately, we didn’t quite do that well enough today. But there are still a few positives and I’m happy about more minutes on the pitch today, which will help me. Overall, I’m disappointed with the result on a personal level.”
Yet Rooney will only get better, and he has more than enough quality to drag his team up the table when he hits his stride. His finishing ability, long-range shooting prowess and the danger of his movement and intelligence of his play should help him stand out as one of the leading forwards in the league. It would be unfair to write him off after a poor debut in testing conditions when he was clearly unfit. D.C. United fans should see the best of him in a few weeks’ time and better times should lie ahead for the struggling franchise.