But in speaking to reporters following training on Tuesday, LAFC boss Bob Bradley outlined the offensive threat posed by his opponent.
“We know how important [Wayne] Rooney is to everything they do. He’s a very smart player, he works very hard for the team so those are things we’ve got to pay attention to,” said Bradley of the former England international and D.C. talisman.
Last season, during the only meeting between United and LAFC — a 1-1 draw at Banc of California Stadium in late May with the home side playing down a man for half the contest — Rooney had yet to arrive.
The former Manchester United and Everton marksman’s impact on the team from the capital has been profound, most notably in helping lift the form of his teammates. An uptick in form following Rooney’s arrival saw Argentine attacker Luciano Acosta put in the kinds of performances that have turned heads in Europe.
“Acosta is very quick, very clever on the ball and you could tell from the beginning that when Rooney arrived, the two of them formed a terrific understanding,” said Bradley before elaborating on their interplay.
“You see they are on the same wavelength and Rooney doesn’t play as a pure [No.] 9, he comes off, he moves around, he’s a very good passer, and then in certain moments that gives freedom for Acosta to get forward.”
The Boca Juniors-bred attacker hasn’t been the only revelation to come out of D.C. United's strong finish to last season and start to the 2019 campaign. Winger Lucas Rodríguez — on loan from Argentine outfit Estudiantes, where Acosta also played before coming to MLS — was another player Bradley identified as an offensive weapon.
“I think Rodriguez has been a good addition, they give him freedom to come in from the left and then make a little bit of a triangle with the other two,” the LAFC boss said of the interplay between the winger, Rooney and Acosta.
Bradley did speak about the defensive acumen of D.C. United, as well as how midfielders Junior Moreno and Russell Canouse have given the team some dependability in the center of the park, adding more reasons for fans around the league to look forward to the match.
“I think what’s exciting is that it has the potential to be a very good game, when you watch D.C., you see some excellent football,” said Bradley when asked about whether the clash between the two early conference leaders had anything extra in store.
There are questions, however, that will only begin to be answered when the opening whistle blows Saturday afternoon (3 pm ET | FOX in US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada).
“They are at home. Will they step up and try to press? Will they defend a little bit deeper where they have the space when they win the ball? Certainly for us, we’ve got to find the right ways to press, in the right moments, that’s something we always try to do. For me, when you look at certain games, you get excited when you know that it’s a real good football challenge and I think this is one of those games,” Bradley said.