Washington (AFP) – England career goals leader Wayne Rooney was thrilled at his triumphant Major League Soccer debut Saturday, assisting on a goal in DC United’s 3-1 victory over Vancouver.
The 32-year-old striker, star attraction in the opening match for United’s new 20,000-seat stadium, entered in the 58th minute.
Former Manchester United star Rooney helped set up Paul Arriola’s goals in the 69th and 80th minutes after Argentine midfielder Yamil Asad provided United the lead for good in the 27th minute.
“Excellent. It was a great victory,” Rooney said. “I thought we played some fantastic football. It was a big night for the club opening the stadium and it was important to get the win.”
Rooney, who played for hometown Everton last year, signed a 3 1/2-year deal worth $13 million with United on Tuesday.
“We were very sharp in the second half, especially when Wayne came on,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “Stalwart, high quality, made some great passes and got on the end of some. Good balls in the box. That’s what we expected from him.”
The $500 million Audi Field, already nicknamed “Wayne’s World,” features a Rooney-dominated front banner declaring “This is Our House.” Dozens of fans sported his number 9 United jersey and a cheer erupted when he took the field for warmups.
“It has been easy (adjusting). I’m enjoying it,” Rooney said. “It was a great atmosphere. People in the city have given me a lot of freedom to be me, which hasn’t always been the case.”
Ten minutes into the second half, fans began chanting “We want Rooney” and moments later he replaced Darren Mattocks to an ovation from the crowd of 20,504, Olsen limiting his time until he regains top fitness.
“I was just as eager to get on the pitch as they were to see me on the pitch,” Rooney said. “They were great. I hope we can give them a few more wins.”
In the 69th minute, Rooney sparked a series of passes that set up Arriola’s blast into the bottom left corner for a 2-0 lead.
Rooney fired a dangerous header in the 79th minute that was fisted away by Vancouver goaltender Brian Rowe.
But moments later, Rooney was on the attack again, passing to Arriola just before he blasted a shot from outside the penalty area into the bottom left corner of the net.
“It’s great to work with the young players with longer legs and I feel like I bring a lot of experience to help them, which I felt showed in the last 30 minutes,” Rooney said.
Vancouver avoided a shutout on Alphonso Davies’ stoppage-time goal.
United, which has won four MLS titles but none since 2004, rose from the bottom of the league to second worst with a third win and 14 points from 15 matches.
“Once Wayne came on, things got better. He just made the right plays at the right time. There’s huge value in that,” Olsen said. “Our challenge is going to be consistency and staying at the level we were at tonight for large stretches.”
Rooney was pleased with England’s fourth-place World Cup run. “Excellent. I think it was a great tournament,” Rooney said. “It’s a shame we didn’t get the final but all the players and manager and staff can be proud and we can kick on from there.”
– Rooney will be vocal –
Olsen said he and his players can learn from Rooney.
“He’s going to make others around him better. We’re still a young team. The mentality he will bring to help these young guys is going to be invaluable,” Olsen said. “I’m looking to learn and get better myself. I’m open to learning and getting better myself. I’m open to ideas he thinks can benefit the club.”
Rooney made it clear he won’t be shy about speaking his mind.
“I want to win,” Rooney said. “I’m vocal on and off the pitch with my coach and my teammates. The most important thing is communication.”
Rooney said he likes how football is growing in America and says it might one day rival such leagues as the NFL and NBA. “Hopefully one day we will eclipse them,” he said.
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