While their names weren’t on the score sheet, the partnership of Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta continued to make an impact for D.C. United in their midweek match against Minnesota United FC. Acosta assisted on both goals of the night and Rooney took on a commanding role in the midfield after striker Darren Mattocks was substituted in for Kofi Opare in the 58th minute.
Acosta, United's leading assist man, picked up his 11th and 12th assists of the year on the Black-and-Red's two goals versus the Loons. In the first goal, scored by Ulises Segura in the 65th minute, Acosta sent a ball in to the box for Rooney. Rooney let the ball roll on for Segura, who was able to hold up the ball, turn past his defender and send a shot in the back of the net to equalize. Four minutes later, when Darren Mattocks scored United's game-winner, Acosta sent a ball down field for Joseph Mora, who sent a perfectly-placed cross to the box for Mattocks to finish.
Acosta’s efforts and work rate, especially in the second half, earned the midfielder praise from D.C. United captain Wayne Rooney, who has developed a special bond with the Argentine in his first months in the District.
“He’s a fantastic player,” Rooney said after the match. “He’s doing brilliantly for us.”
Head Coach Ben Olsen also praised their attacking partnership after the win.
“I thought [Rooney] and [Acosta] played at a very high level all night long,” Olsen said.
Following the substitution of Mattocks, Rooney dropped back into the midfield alongside Acosta. The shift in lineup allowed United to score two goals within the next eleven minutes after Mattocks entered the match. Olsen noted that while Rooney obviously has creativity and lethal finishing ability as a striker, the midfield play got much better when he dropped back alongside Acosta.
“You drop [Acosta] and Wayne [Rooney] back into the center of the midfield, your connections are going to get better. Your range of passing, your creativity, is going to increase,” Olsen said after the match. “And that’s the beauty of Wayne, and [Acosta] for that matter, they have a real versatility about their game. Wayne, we all know he can score goals and maneuver in the box, but we also know he can spray a 40, 50, 60-yard ball in behind to unlock defenses. His range of passing is better than I thought, even better than I imagined. Wayne and [Acosta] continue to have a good feel for each other, whether it’s up high in the box or in the center of the park.”
Olsen added that he would consider starting Rooney in the midfield, depending on the opponent. But as the partnership between Acosta and Rooney continues to develop, it is clear that they can make an impact from a variety of spots on the pitch, and that they each help raise the other's game. And as the race for the playoffs heats up, there is no doubt that Olsen and the rest of the D.C. United squad will benefit from having two versatile attacking stars.