D.C. United was staring at a disastrous result tonight. 2-2 in stoppage time, having taken two leads, and having conceded a goal after Orlando City had gone down a man due to a 55th minute red card. The table says it all: a draw at home against an Eastern Conference foe might as well be a loss, and this one would have been an extremely painful loss of points.
And then, Wayne Rooney showed us what United paid all that money for.
United won a corner in the 95th minute, and sent everyone—even goalkeeper David Ousted—into the box. Zoltan Stieber whipped the corner into Orlando’s box with 21 players lurking. Kofi Opare beat everyone, including Ousted, to the service and headed the ball towards the lower corner. Opare was sure it was a goal, but Uri Rosell hacked it away, and into the space behind everyone. United’s goal was completely empty, and Will Johnson had the angle to win the race to the ball along the touchline.
Rooney, lurking at the top of the box in case the ball had popped loose, took off. That’s 32 year old, multi-million-dollar Premier League import Wayne Rooney. The number nine. The guy people said was past it. He’s the one having to make a 50 yard sprint this far into stoppage time on a muggy night to prevent a bad draw from turning into a worse loss.
I mean, look at this:
Will Johnson won the race to the ball, but Rooney wasn’t about to give up. Well inside United’s half, Rooney lunged in with a desperate tackle, winning the ball off Johnson and preventing a shot on an empty net. A point was saved!
But just a point? Rooney wasn’t settling for just one measly point. Instead, after a couple of touches and some patience in waiting for his teammates to get back onside, Rooney served in an absolutely spectacular deep cross to the back post, where Luciano Acosta—that’s 5’3” midfielder Luciano Acosta—flung himself at the ball, jumping higher than he’s probably ever jumped in his entire life, to head in a last-gasp game-winning goal.
For Acosta, the goal gave him a hat trick. For Rooney, the whole play was a jaw-dropping combination of commitment, grit, vision, and ability. This is why D.C. United worked so hard to bring him to MLS.
Go ahead, watch this view from the stands, and try not to lose your mind.