Wayne Rooney: DC United starting to earn more respect around the league

WASHINGTON – After incredible drama a week ago and sheer dominance in the midweek, D.C. United finished a perfect three-match homestand Sunday at Audi Field with a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution that possessed in satisfaction what it lacked in aesthetics.

There were no game-saving tackles, last-gasp winners or set-piece stunners. Only an opening 45 minutes in which D.C. dominated New England for long stretches, followed by a second half in which United took the Revs’ best response before killing off the game.

“I thought today, the first half, we played some of the best football you’ll see in the league,” said D.C. captain Wayne Rooney. “[And] The second half was probably a better half for us because it was tougher. We dug in, we kept a clean sheet. … It was a good performance all around.”

Said head coach Ben Olsen: “We had to kind of dig in and show a physical presence that this team hasn’t dealt with in the greatest way over the last year and a half. … [The Revolution] came here to pick a fight. And I thought we, for the most, did very well matching a very physical team.”

Luciano Acosta hit the opener in the 13th minute, racing onto the very tail end of Paul Arriola’s cross and smashing a finish past Matt Turner from a tight angle. Zoltan Stieber finished it off 76 minutes later as D.C. finally took advantage of Scott Caldwell’s 73rd-minute dismissal.

It was a relieving end to an exhausting week, an eight-day-stretch in which eighth-place D.C. also dispatched Orlando and Portland to move to within two points of the seventh-place New England and stay six back of the playoff line.

In the process, the 32-year-old Rooney played 266 of 270 potential minutes while Acosta, his offensive co-conspirator, played 258 while the duo had a hand in seven of D.C.’s nine goals. Holding midfielder Russell Canouse played all 270, as did defenders Steve Birnbaum and Kofi Opare.

“I asked a lot of these guys, mentally, physically, whether it’s the preparation or the minutes that they put in,” Olsen said. “It was a long week for these guys. And they dug in. At times there was some great stuff, some great soccer throughout the week.”

The Black-and-Red still have 10 of their 12 remaining matches at home after next Sunday’s Heineken Rivalry Week tilt at the New York Red Bulls, (7 pm ET | FS1 - full TV & streaming info), who handed D.C. their only Audi Field loss on July 25.

What the Black-and-Red may no longer possess is the element of surprise.

“I think what you’re seeing now is teams respecting us a bit more,” Rooney said. “I think in previous games, New England have pressed a lot. ... I think today you could see their hesitance in doing that. And leaving the space for us to get on the ball. I think you’re seeing teams showing that little bit more respect to us, and Red Bulls I’m sure they’ll have more to think about than what they did last time.”