Rooney’s insertion Saturday led to much more dominance in possession in the last half-hour for United, which in turn led to Paul Arriola’s late brace to seal a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in the opening match at Audi Field.
The way the match progressed meant the former England and Manchester United captain didn’t have to do a whole lot of pressing in his first MLS game, and thus might be capable of more exertion in D.C.’s visit to Atlanta United on Saturday (3:30 pm ET | Univision, Twitter – full TV & streaming info).
“It wasn’t super taxing on him,” Olsen said at Tuesday’s training. “We had a lot of the ball, partly because because he was good with it and he helped us in that possession. So yeah, expect more minutes from him.”
Even so, Olsen maintains that the results of Rooney’s first match won’t lure him into playing the newcomer longer than he should in the second. Why? Because Olsen had high expectations even before Rooney’s first performance.
“I think there’s temptation from the second he arrived at the club,” Olsen said. “I wasn’t that, really, surprised at how he changed the game. Again, he didn’t change it in any other way than just having a high IQ out there and playing simple and making the right play, and doing what he’s been doing all these years.”
While some high-profile European imports have avoided matches on artificial turf, Olsen said Rooney “doesn’t have any concerns” about the surface at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And though the furor of one of the league’s loudest and most intense venues can certainly lift the home side, Olsen said he’s eager for Rooney to experience what one of the toughest MLS away days looks like.
D.C. lost 3-1 in their first trip to "The Benz" in March.
“I think going to Atlanta, seeing what a road game looks like, I think is really important for his transition here,” Olsen said. “I think he’ll really enjoy the Atlanta atmosphere. We did. It’s a wild place. And you just can’t believe it.”
Rooney isn’t the only thing about D.C.’s look that has changed since that previous defeat in Atlanta, arguably their least competitive outing of the season to date.
Partly due to those tweaks, D.C. had grown into a more dynamic offensive team even before Rooney’s arrival. They’ve scored 20 goals in their last nine games.
“I think we have another identity now,” said goalkeeper David Ousted on Tuesday. “We’re definitely up for the challenge and we look forward to another big match. I think from here on out, there’s nothing but big matches, and we need to climb the table.”