DC United's latest Argentine star? Get to know Lucas Rodriguez

Lucas Rodriguez - DC United - March 16, 2019

WASHINGTON – Though Lucas Rodriguez is new to MLS, he already has brothers of a sort in Washington.

In D.C. United teammates Luciano Acosta and Leonardo Jara, the 21-year-old Rodriguez has colleagues who understand the culture in which Rodriguez came of age as a footballer at Argentine side Estudiantes.

“It’s a mystical club with a lot of history,” Rodriguez explains, through an interpreter. “Family is very important, and respecting others. Usually the bigger players teach the others. It’s a culture of family.”

Perhaps that ethos has helped Rodriguez adjust quickly to a new team, league and country in his first season in the US capital, which continues Sunday when D.C. visit Orlando City (6:30 pm ET | TV and streaming info).

Playing primarily on D.C.’s left side of midfield, Rodriguez notched an assist in his first MLS match and a goal in his third. And it wasn’t just any goal, but a potential goal of the year candidate, in which he blistered a first-time volley beyond Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando off a corner kick from Wayne Rooney.

“I never thought I was going to score that goal,” Rodriguez admits.

Despite his flamboyant blonde locks and obvious technical class, Rodriguez appears open to playing the role of the understated third prong of a new “Magic Triangle” era in D.C.

To borrow from the history of Rooney’s hometown, Rodriguez just might be D.C.’s George Harrison of the group, content to let Rooney and Acosta take the Lennon-McCartney headline billing, yet capable of producing brilliance in his own right.

That sensibility showed in his move to D.C., which Rodriguez says was as sudden as it was potentially life-changing.

“It was a very last-minute thing. I finished playing the last game [at Estudiantes], and then I was here,” recalls Rodriguez, who officially completed his transfer on New Year’s Eve. “It’s a new country, it’s a new club. I knew it was going to be a good experience for me as a player.”

It has shown off the field in his new city, where Rodriguez said he spent the international break haunting the Washington-area hangouts of Acosta and Jara’s choosing.

“The support I have from Lucho and Leo is very important,” Rodriguez says. “I know it’s a different country, but it helps me to adjust a little bit faster.”

That’s not to say nothing surprises him. For example, it’s hard not to learn something new from being in close proximity to Rooney on a day-to-day basis.

The enormous spotlight that has followed the Englishman throughout his career has often focused more on his life off the field. But on the field, Rodriguez says it’s hard to understand Rooney’s intensity until you experience it in person.

“Everyone knows Wayne is a huge player,” Rodriguez says. “He won in Europe a lot. He won a lot of things. He basically won it all. But what is most impressive is he’s always trying to learn something new. He’s always putting 100 percent into practice. It’s very impressive to see a player of his caliber who is always hungry to learn more.”

Generally though, Rodriguez appears willing to go with the flow, waiting for his moment and then seizing it without mistake.

On a team already packed with personalities, it may be just what D.C. United needs, whether it’s just for the duration of his year-long loan, or well beyond.

“I understand that I’m here for a one-year loan. If I’m able to stay longer than that, I’ll be very grateful,” he said. “But if that doesn’t work out, and I have to go back to Argentina, I’ll still be very grateful for all the experience.”