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Wayne Rooney magic guides D.C. United past Orlando City

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There was only one goal, but what a goal it was!

Caitlin Buckley

Wayne Rooney’s jaw-dropping 65-yard strike was the difference as D.C. United defeated Orlando City 1-0 on a hot night at Audi Field. Rooney’s 10th minute wondergoal was the crucial moment of inspiration on a night where both teams had plenty of chances, but couldn’t often produce high-end shots.

Facing a shorthanded Orlando side, United went close twice in the early moments, with Ulises Segura glancing a near-post header from a Wayne Rooney corner just over the bar in the 4th minute. Segura returned the favor three minutes later, crossing to Rooney from the right. Rooney spotted Orlando goalkeeper Brian Rowe a step off his line and floated a header over him, but the ball went just wide.

The home side were hungry, but no one could have predicted how they’d get the opener. Russell Canouse cleared the ball upfield from inside D.C.’s penalty area, but Robin Jansson’s attempt to trap it was all wrong, caroming into an unprepared Sacha Kljestan. The ball rolled right to Rooney, and from well inside United’s own half, he spotted Rowe off his line. The England legend wasted no time, firing a 60+ yard shot over a helpless Rowe, giving the Black-and-Red a spectacular opener.

Stunning though it was, the visitors produced a spell of pressure in response, with United having to rely on several headed clearances from Frederic Brillant and a crucial block from Steven Birnbaum in the 23rd minute.

Rooney nearly scored direct from a free kick in the 30th minute, with his near-post delivery for Brillant going untouched. That forced Rowe to react late, though this time he produced a reflex save. Luciano Acosta corralled the rebound from the endline and chipped the ball back across, looking to score, but Rowe bounced up and slapped the ball away.

Carlos Ascues, standing in for several injured or absent Orlando midfielders, had two opportunities in the 33rd minute. First, Chris Mueller played him through on goal after dipping inside, but the Peruvian inexplicably opted to look for a pass even after Bill Hamid had reacted to his initial feint. That pass went awry, but Orlando recycled the ball, and within seconds found Ascues on the other side of the box. This time, he opted for power, but missed the ball entirely.

The game remained a fairly open affair. Tesho Akindele forced Hamid to make a smart save in the 40th minute, while Rooney — clearly feeling it after his incredible opener — curled a 20 yarder just barely wide shortly thereafter.

United survived a near-miss from Orlando in the 58th minute. Ascues finished an assured spell of possession with a low cross into the goalmouth. Leonardo Jara just barely beat Akindele to the ball, but with both players and Hamid down, the ball remained loose. Mueller appeared destined to stab it home, but Birnbaum intervened, saving United with a last-gasp tackle.

Orlando kept hammering away. A half-cleared corner fell to Dillon Powers in the 66th minute, and he swung the ball back across the box to Mueller. Perhaps taking a page out of Rooney’s book from earlier, Mueller opted to try and lob Hamid with his header. Fortunately for D.C., the play went essentially the same way: Hamid couldn’t make the save, but the ball landed gently on top of the net rather than going in.

With the visitors pushing numbers into the attack, United had chances to hit on the break. Acosta found himself in a seam in the 70th minute and curled a shot on frame, but much to his chagrin the effort was right at Rowe.

Orlando didn’t heed the danger, and in the 73rd minute it appeared United had padded their lead. Rooney and Acosta combined in the midfield before finding Lucas Rodriguez. Using a feint to fool the entire Lions back four, Rodriguez pushed a through ball in behind that put Segura in alone on Rowe. Segura’s low shot beat Rowe despite the netminder getting a touch on it.

United celebrated, red smoke poured out of the supporters’ end, but referee Alex Chilowicz spoiled the party after getting a call to review the goal for offside. After a long look at the VAR monitor, Chilowicz called the goal back, leaving the score 1-0.

Orlando reacted well to being let off the hook, with multiple corners and dangerous services fended off by Birnbaum and Brillant. However, the Black-and-Red effectively managed five minutes of stoppage time to break a five-game winless streak. Now on 30 points, United has a quick turnaround, as they host Toronto FC on Saturday, June 29.


Box Score

MLS Regular Season (Game 18)
D.C. United 1 (Rooney 10)
Orlando City 0

Lineups:
DCU (4231): Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse; Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta (Quincy Amarikwa 88), Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney (C)

Orlando (433): Brian Rowe; Ruan, Lamine Sané, Robin Jansson, Kyle Smith; Dillon Powers, Sacha Kljestan, Carlos Ascues (Uri Rosell 69); Chris Mueller (Benji Michel 79), Tesho Akindele (Santiago Patiño 83), Nani (C)

Bookings:
DCU - Rodriguez 90
Orlando - Ruan 27, Kljestan 89