DC United flash hint of post-LuchoRoo future with tactical tweak vs. Galaxy

WASHINGTON – Fans who had gone off the grid in the hours prior to Sunday night’s match at Audi Field may have taken their seat or tuned into their TV, seen D.C. United's starting XI and wondered if they’d slipped into a time warp.

Specifically, that they'd tumbled down a portal into next year, when Wayne Rooney will definitely depart the Black-and-Red and Luciano Acosta may well follow.

Rooney missed the gutsy 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy due to illness, and coach Ben Olsen dropped Acosta to the subs bench in one of the evening's more surprising roster decisions.

With a trio of recent roster additions coupled with the possibility that D.C. could still sell Acosta later this month, Olsen's choice underscored the uncertainty surrounding the Argentine playmaker, who has underwhelmed in 2019 with five goals and two assists following a breakout 2018.

After Sunday's win, Olsen insisted the omission was not part of any larger mission statement about Acosta's future status or ability to contribute down the stretch

“It’s not about sending a message,” the coach said. “It’s just about putting a team on there that I think can win the game.”

Olsen pointed out that, given the Galaxy’s talent and ability to possess the ball, he’d opted for a more transitional tactical approach on Sunday. That appeared to leave the door open for Acosta to come back into the fold when United expect to play more on the front foot.

“He’s still a part of this team," Olsen said. "He’s still going to play a big role. It’s just tonight, it was just a coach’s decision on this game, I didn’t choose him. I didn’t choose him as part of the group to have success tonight. That doesn’t mean next weekend will be the same.”

If Acosta does move on before the end of the season, one adjustment could be to drop Rooney into the playmaking role behind newly-acquired Norwegian forward Ola Kamara.

Another could be the tack Olsen took Sunday, playing Paul Arriola as a more transition-oriented No. 10. The US national team regular partnered well behind Quincy Amarikwa on Sunday, scoring the game’s opening goal and playing a big role in Lucas Rodriguez’s winner, and could theoretically do the same with Rooney leading the line.

“If I continue to play in a role like that, I’m a player that likes space, right? That kind of drifts out wide," Arriola said. “When Lucho plays, he’s a more possession-oriented guy. … And me I’m obviously a little more direct and at times I look more like a forward than a No. 10 because I’m all over the place.

“There’s just a little different dynamic. But I think tonight, as a transition team like we showed, I thought it was pretty good.”