Is it conspiratorial to wonder if Wayne Rooney delayed his visa to make his debut as D.C. United head coach fall against Orlando City?
As a player, Rooney won all three of his matches against the Lions after arriving in MLS in June 2018, scoring twice and providing three assists – including that memorable cross from the halfway line after racing back to win possession.
Rooney was announced as D.C. United’s new head coach weeks ago, but saw his debut held off as he awaited his visa. Perhaps it was fate that he should start against Orlando.
Watch the story of Charlotte FC’s journey to MLS in 90min’s The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels now. Subscribe to our new US YouTube channel.
That said, it didn’t feel that way for most of Sunday’s match with the Lions leading from the ninth minute through Junior Urso, all the way until second-half stoppage time.
But then the soccer gods took over, delivering a Chris Durkin equalizer in the 91st minute while in-form winger Taxiarchis Fountas grabbed the winner in the 95th.
Pandemonium broke out in the Audi Field stands but for Rooney, this can only be the ‘start’ for a team still rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
“This season has to start now. We’ve had some bad results,” he declared, adding: “We have to be better… We’re starting to see signs of what a good team [we] can be.”
Perhaps it was real, or perhaps it was just a throwaway line to the media. Or perhaps it was because D.C. United were playing Orlando City. Either way, Rooney insisted he never lost faith in his side picking up three points, hailing a second-half performance that yielded 0.83 xG compared to just 0.07 before the break.
“I believed we’d win the game, but the one thing we had to do was up the tempo,” Rooney explained.
“I asked the team at halftime to be more positive. To put the work in. It’s a big difference, more possession-based, using the goalkeeper for all the workings, getting in dangerous positions. I thought the second half was excellent.”
Next up for D.C. United is a trip to expansion side Charlotte FC on Wednesday.