The more things change, the more they stay the same when it comes to Wayne Rooney and Orlando City SC.

The legendary former England international, who dominated the Lions during his two-year playing stint with D.C. United, once again tormented the Florida-based MLS side in his debut as head coach of the Black-and-Red, who pulled off a dramatic, 2-1 come-from-behind win Sunday night at Audi Field.


Rooney scored twice and added three assists in three appearances against Orlando, all of them wins – none more remarkable than the famous 3-2 victory in August 2018 that was his defining moment in the league.

With the game level and the clock about to expire, the then-32-year-old veteran broke up a potential game-winning counterattack for the opposition by chasing down and tackling Will Johnson, before sending a Hail Mary cross from distance that Luciano Acosta miraculously headed into the back of the net.

While not quite as cinematic, Rooney's MLS coaching debut saw some more late-game heroics – this time courtesy of Chris Durkin and Taxi Fountas, who respectively turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory with goals in the 91st and 95th minutes that secured three vital points for United.


The dramatic result was no surprise for Rooney, despite his team's poor start that allowed Junior Urso to open the scoring for the visitors just nine minutes into the proceedings after a bad giveaway.

"I believed we’d win the game, but the one thing we had to do was up the tempo," the new boss explained when asked what his halftime message to the squad was after a lackluster first 45 minutes.

"I asked the team at halftime to be more positive, to put the work in. It’s a big difference, more possession-based, using the goalkeeper for all the workings, getting in dangerous positions. I thought the second half was excellent."

United, who sit last in the Eastern Conference standings, eight points adrift of the Audi MLS Cup Playoff places with 13 matches to go, still have time to salvage their season, according to Rooney.

"This season has to start now. We’ve had some bad results," he acknowledged, while making it clear he'll hold his players to the highest standards.

"We have to be better," he said, starting with Wednesday's (7:00 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) match at Charlotte FC.

"We’re starting to see signs of what a good team [we] can be."

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