Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta were spectacular for D.C. United this season, and their brilliant play from July onward has been recognized with spots on Major League Soccer’s 2018 Best XI. It is the first such honor for both players, though Rooney has previously been named to the PFA Team of the Year three times during his time with Manchester United. This ends a four-year drought for United, whose last Best XI players were Bill Hamid and Bobby Boswell back in 2014.
Rooney’s arrival keyed a spectacular rise for United, who were in last place on the day he made his debut. Rooney contributed 12 goals and 7 assists in 20 appearances, and with him in uniform D.C.’s record in the regular season was 12W-4D-4L. That’s a 2 points per game pace, or enough to be in the thick of the Supporters Shield race if maintained for a full season.
Rooney, playing almost exclusively as a center forward, became both D.C.’s top goal threat and its playmaker. Rooney’s 12 goals were a team high, but he also managed to average 2 key passes per 90 minutes, and the sight of him dropping off the front line to combine with runners from the midfield became the hallmark of United’s potent attack.
No one appeared to benefit more from Rooney’s arrival than Acosta, who ended up posting one of the finest individual seasons in United history. Acosta finished the year with 10 goals and 17 assists, besting both his goal total (8) and assist total (16) from his first two seasons with the Black-and-Red. Acosta managed 9 goals and 10 assists after Rooney’s arrival, fulfilling all of the potential he has shown in MLS since arriving from Boca Juniors ahead of the 2016 season.
The pair combined for numerous goals, including an incredible late winner against Orlando City that will go down in United lore as “the Buzzard Beater.”
Rooney and Acosta join a long list of United players to make the Best XI. The Black-and-Red have now had 15 players combine for 28 appearances on the Best XI over the years. United legend Jaime Moreno leads the way with 5 Best XI nods, followed by fellow Bolivian master Marco Etcheverry (4). Within the current locker room, they’ll join head coach Ben Olsen (2007) and starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid (2014) as having a Best XI season on their CV.
The complete MLS Best XI is as follows:
Goalkeeper: Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC)
Defenders: Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC)
Midfielders: Luciano Acosta (D.C. United), Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club)
Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Wayne Rooney (D.C. United)