D.C. United has lofty ambitions for 2019, and they made a statement to the rest of MLS by demolishing Real Salt Lake tonight, hitting the nine-man visitors up for a 5-0 scoreline. Wayne Rooney notched his first MLS hat trick before Lucas Rodriguez and Ulises Segura added goals in the final minutes. RSL saw Jefferson Savarino and Marcelo Silva both sent off by referee Dave Gantar.
After an opening spell that saw both teams try to wear the other down with patient possession, the game came to life in the 23rd minute. First, a missed out-of-bounds call along the endline allowed Aaron Herrera to cross into the are for RSL. United wasn’t able to get a body on Damir Kreilach, but the Croatian’s awkward volley mercifully went wide.
Moments later, United won a free kick in front of the visitors’ bench, and Wayne Rooney’s back-post service found Steven Birnbaum. Birnbaum’s header pinged off Marcelo Silva’s back before falling to Paul Arriola, who should have done better than fire wide of Nick Rimando’s right-hand post.
United got the breakthrough they were looking for in the 33rd minute, but only after an intervention from VAR. Gantar initially missed the contact as Marcelo Silva came down on Arriola’s ankle just inside the box. Arriola needed treatment, and in the meantime Gantar got a call, and pointed to the spot after a review. Rooney duly deposited the penalty low and to Rimando’s left, sending the legendary PK stopper the wrong way to give D.C. the lead.
United wanted another penalty in the 37th minute for a possible handball, but Gantar was quick to wave it off. They didn’t have to wait long to make it 2-0, with Rooney again delivering the goods. This time, Leonardo Jara created the goal single-handedly, first stepping up to strip Herrera of the ball, and then serving up an inch-perfect pass to Rooney, who was kept onside by Nedum Onuoha. In alone on Rimando, Rooney calmly took a touch before dinking a simple finish over the former United netminder.
Gantar would be involved again before halftime, this time giving a red card to RSL winger Jefferson Savarino. Savarino, going for a high ball along the touchline, reached up with a foot that caught Luciano Acosta in the mouth. After Acosta was attended to by United’s trainers, Gantar dismissed the Venezuelan. Rooney went for a hat trick from the free kick, but could only hit the top of the cross bar.
United came out looking for a third to start the second half, with a 54th minute sequence seeing multiple near-misses. First, Acosta freed Joseph Mora up to cut the ball back for Rooney, but the England legend was denied by Kyle Beckerman’s sliding block. United kept control, with Lucas Rodriguez eventually giving Mora another look at a cross. This time, the former Saprissa man picked Rooney out perfectly, only for the latter to head wide with the goal at his mercy.
Rooney wouldn’t be denied, though, capping off a hat trick in the 65th minute. It was a beautiful piece of soccer, as United broke forward with numbers. Acosta slipped the onrushing Junior Moreno into the area, and Moreno unselfishly opted to square to Rooney for a tap-in from close range. RSL appealed for offside, but replays showed that Rooney was clearly on, giving him his first hat trick in MLS.
RSL’s nightmare continued in the 67th minute, as Marcelo Silva was sent off after receiving a second yellow card. Gantar was left with little choice as Silva hauled Rodriguez down as the Argentine was streaking in behind RSL’s defense, reducing the visitors down to 9 men.
It only got worse from there for the visitors. First, Rooney got himself an assist to go with his goals, picking out Rodriguez direct from a 76th minute corner. Rodriguez did most of the work, though, turning Rooney’s delicate lob into a vicious side-volley that left Rimando with no chance.
United were merciless, and substitute Ulises Segura got in on the goalscoring act in the 80th minute. Moreno was the provider for the second time on the night, this time stepping high to force a turnover before teeing Segura up for a first-time clipped finish back across Rimando and into the side netting.
Fans began chanting “We want 6!,” and Rooney nearly gave them what they asked for in the 85th minute, going for a lob from an angle that Rimando just barely tipped over the bar. Rooney had two other late bids for a fourth, while Bofo Saucedo nearly gave RSL one goal in stoppage time with a long-range blast that sailed a yard over the crossbar.
United will get a week to savor their victory due to the international break. They’ll be back in action on March 31st, traveling south to take on Orlando City SC.
MLS Regular Season (Game 3)
D.C. United 5 (Rooney 33pen, 41, 65; Rodriguez 76; Segura 80)
Real Salt Lake 0
DCU (4231): Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse (Chris Durkin 75); Paul Arriola (Ulises Segura 68), Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez (Zoltan Stieber 79); Wayne Rooney (C)
RSL (4231): Nick Rimando; Brooks Lennon, Marcelo Silva, Nedum Onuoha, Aaron Herrera; Everton Luiz (Sam Johnson 63), Kyle Beckerman (C) (Nick Besler 73); Jefferson Savarino, Damir Kreilach (Bofo Saucedo 63), Albert Rusnak; Corey Baird
DCU - Canouse 37, Moreno 57, Rodriguez 71
RSL - Silva 32, Savarino 48+ (red), Silva 67 (sent off), Saucedo 70, Baird 78