For only the second time since his arrival last summer, Wayne Rooney sat out a game for D.C. United this past weekend, not playing any part in the 2-0 loss at Atlanta United. The striker, who registered a goal and an assist during the midweek win over FC Cincinnati, went home to England over the weekend instead of putting himself through a second game on artificial turf in short order.
Rooney wasn’t back at practice on Tuesday, but is expected to rejoin the team tomorrow and be available this weekend when United hit the road once again to take on the Chicago Fire. But when questioned about whether Rooney asked for a game off, or whether his staff suggested it, head coach Ben Olsen was noncommittal after Tuesday’s practice.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Olsen. “He’s played a lot of games, trains everyday. At some point, he’s going to need an exhale for the rest of the season.”
The only other game Rooney had missed during his time with the Black-and-Red was earlier this year, when he was suspended for a game against the Montreal Impact. Otherwise, England’s all-time leading scorer had appeared in 44 games in all competitions, coming off the bench as a substitute just three times.
Rooney turns 34 later this year, but hasn’t exactly showed signs of slowing down just yet. After producing 12 goals and 7 assists in 20 regular season games in 2018, the former Manchester United striker has almost duplicated those numbers in 2019. In addition to two goals and an assist from two Open Cup games, Rooney has 11 goals and 7 assists in league play this year.
Without Rooney on Sunday, Olsen opted to put Luciano Acosta at the top of the formation, with the Argentine playing as a false 9. Though the Black-and-Red failed to find the back of the net, Acosta created two chances for Paul Arriola in the first half, chances which Olsen said United needed to convert in order to get a result, given how well Atlanta performs at home.
“Once the emotion of the loss settled, looking back on the game, I thought it was a good performance,” said Olsen, “and I felt bad for the guys that they didn’t get something out of it.”
“I do think it was a game where we needed to see one of those offensive plays out, and get a goal, to get out of there with something,” added the manager. “It’s tough to keep them off the board at home. From an effort standpoint, and group mentality, I thought it was as good of performance as we’ve put together this year.”
With just 11 games left this season, Rooney’s return should help United keep themselves in the mix for a top playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But after giving Rooney a game off, the hope is that the striker will be rested and ready to go for the last couple of months of the season.