11 days until Christmas and Black-and-Red fans can unwrap a pair of presents that have already given us an abundance of joy this year!
2018 saw the birth of not only a beautiful new home at Audi Field but also the emergence of one the best on-field relationships in Major League Soccer. Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta lit the league on fire with their impressive displays and their rapidly established rapport on the field. Fellow players, media and technical staffs across the league agreed with our evaluation as they selected Rooney and Acosta in their 2018 MLS Best XI. The first time the Black-and-Red had two players in the MLS Best XI since 2014 when Bill Hamid and Bobby Boswell made the list.
Rooney joined United in the summer and it didn’t take long for the International soccer icon to shine bright within the District. Rooney was incandescent and inspired midfield maestro Luciano Acosta to establish himself as an equally bright and shining ornament on the D.C. United Christmas tree. Rooney and Acosta made Audi Field their stage every time they stepped on the field and always put on a show for the 20,000 spectators.
The two players directly combined for seven goals in 2018 and their chemistry in the offensive third has the DMV salivating at their potential in 2019. Acosta’s trickery, flair and connecting ability, paired with Rooney’s experience and quality in front of goal will continue to be a scary reality for opposing teams next season.
They gave fans the ultimate gift on Aug. 12 with a play that would ultimately be dubbed “The Tackle" and will go down in D.C. United record books as one of the most dramatic games in club history. Rooney embodied the fighting spirit that has defined his career when he chased down Orlando’s Will Johnson in a last gasp attempt to snatch three critical points for D.C. United in the playoff race.
England and Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer didn’t stop at the tackle as he looked up and picked out Acosta who was making a run at the far post. Acosta had already given Black-and-Red fans two goals as gifts earlier in the match… but the playmaker had one more present left on his sleigh. Against all odds, the smallest player on the field, climbed over the Orlando defender and headed the ball past a charging Joe Bendik to score a late game-winner that would spur the team onward towards the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Alexi Lalas' reactionary scream of delight from the commentator’s booth echoed across the District and was the cherry on top of an already decadent cake that day. A true Christmas miracle in DC!
The Rooney and Acosta partnership will only get stronger with time and fans can look optimistically towards their continue progression in 2019.