WASHINGTON, D.C. — D.C. United captain Wayne Rooney has been trying to put a goal in from midfield since his arrival to Major League Soccer.
Over the last year in MLS, some of his midfield chances went high, others went wide and some were easily saved by the goalkeeper, but he finally broke through Wednesday to lift United to 1-0 victory over Orlando City SC. From beyond midfield, Rooney chipped a 60-yard shot over the head of goalkeeper Brian Rowe in the 10th minute.
Rowe’s diving effort wasn’t enough to stop the instant Goal of the Week — maybe Goal of the Year — from Rooney. The wildly ambitious shot came naturally to Rooney because he has practiced it nearly every year.
“It is something which I practice so many timed [under] different managers, different teams,” Rooney said. “I knew immediately I was going to shoot.”
The forward has been good for at least one viral highlight a game against Orlando. Last season, Rooney turned around United’s season with a 40-yard dash to beat defender Will Johnson in stoppage time, assisting the winning goal. Earlier this year, he curled in a free kick to the upper left corner to break a 1-1 tie.
“I think it is just coincidence. Nothing against Orlando at all,” Rooney said. “In the three games I’ve played against them there have been three big moments, so hopefully the next time we play there will be a fourth.”
“I am not surprised by anything [Rooney] has done here so far but I have high expectations,” coach Ben Olsen said. “I got no complaints.”
WAYNE ROONEY FROM PAST MIDFIELD!!!! pic.twitter.com/dJ5BriAOx3
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 27, 2019
Orlando could not find the equalizer despite two close-range chances from midfielder Carlos Ascues before the break. In the 33rd minute, Ascues made a run into the box that caught goalkeeper Bill Hamid off balance. Instead of taking his shot on goal, Ascues took and extra step and gave United’s defense a chance to set up.
The game calmed down in the second half as United looked happy to defend the lead with its more defensive formation.
“We dropped in a little too deep and bent for most of the half and weren’t able to secure the ball and dictate the game,” Olsen said. “There is a happy medium in there somewhere that we have to find if we are going to kind of go to where we want to go.”
Orlando winger Chris Mueller was the biggest threat to United’s back-line with his closest chance coming in the 67th minute. After a corner kick restart, Mueller received the ball at the top of the box. He turned and shot over the crossbar and out of any real danger. He later subbed off for Benji Michel.
United took a chance less than 10 minutes later to try to double the lead. Midfielder Lucas Rodriguez received a pass out of the back and slotted a slick ball through two Orlando defenders to Ulises Segura. Segura possessed the ball and struck it past Rowe, but after review referee Alex Chilowicz ruled Segura offside.
Segura earned a recent string of starts in the absence of United States men’s national team winger Paul Arriola. His disallowed goal against Orlando is the latest in a string of key plays that involved Segura.
“[Segura] has been very good since Paul has been out,” Olsen said. “What he gives us is some of the similar qualities that Paul gives us. That is the running off the ball [and] simple soccer.”
Jun 26, 2019; Washington, D.C., USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal from beyond midfield against Orlando City SC in the first half at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Despite taking 19 shots, Orlando failed to to hit more than a handful on target. The most dangerous chances came from overcrowding the box and catching Hamid off guard. Additionally, defender Steve Birnbaum played a major role in keeping the Lions off the score board.
“The teams with the right mentality usually or the mentally tough teams can really pick up points in the summer,” Olsen said. “Give us credit today that we held the fort there in the second half and got the three points.”
United has a quick turnaround and hosts Toronto F.C., without stars Michael Bradley or Jozy Altidore, Saturday, June 29 at 8 p.m.