Christmas this year came early for many Black-and-Red supporters when English soccer icon Wayne Rooney signed for the club this summer. Though the holiday is often celebrated with tacky sweaters, United fans celebrated by packing Audi Field in their new number 9 jerseys, ready to sing in support of the club's newest signing.
On the field, Rooney’s success was impossible to ignore. United’s star forward scored 12 goals in just 20 appearances, with his debut coming on July 14 as fans applauded a new era of soccer in the District. His contributions could not have come at a more critical time for the Black-and-Red. Sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference meant postseason hopes were dim, but with three game-winning goals along the way, Rooney helped guide United up the standings and into a playoff spot.
In addition to the important goals, the United captain collected seven assists during his remarkable run of form. The most recognizable of these came against Orlando City, when Rooney finished a lung-busting run with an outstanding tackle on a streaking Orlando player. He then sent an inch-perfect cross to a leaping Luciano Acosta, who headed it home for the game-winning goal.
The Black-and-Red captain was no stranger to creating chances for his teammates, though many did not make international highlight reels. Rooney created a total of 39 chances during the regular season, many of which fell to dynamic midfielder Lucho Acosta. This partnership was on full display in a late-season match-up with eventual MLS Cup champions Atlanta United. The match finished 3-1 in favor of the home side, with Rooney playing a part in all three goals. He assisted Acosta for the team’s first and third goals, and slotted home a penalty for the team’s second.
Rooney’s technical ability on the field was also matched by his ability to lead a team coming off a challenging first half of the season. His Premier League experience brought an intensity to D.C. that had been missed, elevating the play of many 2018 standouts. Rooney finished the season as a finalist for both the MLS Newcomer of the Year and the Landon Donovan MVP awards. Individual accolades came often for Rooney in his first MLS season, but those recognized flashes of brilliance were often accompanied by a tireless work ethic and impressive locker room presence.
As we get closer to the 25th, some fans may still be looking for the perfect star for the top of their tree. After witnessing the on-field exploits of our newest captain, you may have what you’re looking for in Wayne Rooney.