Major League Soccer announced the finalists for their end of the year awards on Wednesday afternoon, and D.C. United’s superstar, Wayne Rooney, was nominated for two different awards. Rooney, who scored 12 goals and added 7 assists in his 20 games since arriving in the nation’s capital, is one of five finalists for the Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player, alongside Miguel Almiron, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Josef Martinez, and Carlos Vela.
In addition, Rooney, who was the only person from the Black-and-Red nominated for an end of season award, is a finalist for the Newcomer of the Year. He competition for that honor is also Ibrahimovic and Vela.
United brought in Rooney this summer, looking to make splash signing as they opened up Audi Field. What they got was a player who was more than willing to buy into MLS, the team, and his role. After taking a few games to get adjusted, Rooney’s performances elevated the Black-and-Red from the last placed team in the league to hosting a knockout round game in the playoffs.
In addition, Luciano Acosta, who had plenty of ups and downs during his tenure with D.C., hit new heights with Señor Wayne. Before Rooney’s arrival, Acosta had a goal and 7 assists to his name in 2018. Since then, he’s scored 9 and assisted on 10 other goals.
Rooney faces some stiff competition for both awards. Atlanta United’s Martinez set a new league record for goals in a season, finishing with 31. Almiron, his running partner in Atlanta, had another successful year, as the Five Stripes just missed out on the Supporters’ Shield on the final day of the season.
Ibra scored 22 goals and assisted on 10 others in a brilliant debut season for the LA Galaxy. However, the Galaxy are at home for the playoffs, having lost on the final day of the season to the Houston Dynamo, in a game in which they led 2-0. And Carlos Vela was an integral part of the Los Angeles FC’s historic debut season as an expansion team. Vela missed time with Mexico at the World Cup, but still finished with 14 goals and 13 assists, as LAFC set the record for the most points by an expansion team.
Should Rooney win the MVP award, he would become the 5th player in team history to be bestowed the top individual honor in the league. Marco Etcheverry was the first to claim the prize, in 1998. Then Christian Gomez and Luciano Emilio won MVP in back to back years, in 2006 and 2007.
Arriving midway through the 2011 season, Dwayne De Rosario won the MVP award, nearly dragging an otherwise listless United team to the playoffs. In 18 games, DDR scored 13 and assisted on 7, as United’s attempt to earn a playoff spot late in the year fell just short.
In addition to winning the MVP in 2007, Emilio was also named the Newcomer of the Year, when he scored 20 goals to win the Golden Boot. That was the first year for the award, and Emilio remains the only winner from D.C.
The last time any United player won an end of the season award was 2014, when Bill Hamid won Goalkeeper of the Year. That same year, Ben Olsen was named Coach of the Year, as United completed a dramatic transformation from 2013’s historically bad year, to winning the Eastern Conference the next.