WASHINGTON, D.C. – Between the questions about England’s World Cup hopes, the wild welcome at Dulles Airport and the difficulties of training in the East Coast summers, it was hard to suss out the exact vision for how Wayne Rooney fits tactically with D.C. United.
But this much we do know after the formal introduction of D.C. United's newest Designated Player and all-time most-expensive signing: He's here to score goals.
“I think we do want to get Wayne as close to goal as possible,” said D.C. United general manager Dave Kasper said following Monday's press conference. “What that means and how we play will be tweaked as we move along. We haven’t had Wayne with our group, or our group with Wayne. It’s going to take some time to iron this out, several games.”
Since midway through 2016, United have played mostly a 4-1-4-1 – sometimes shifting into a 4-2-3-1 – to accommodate the playmaking abilities of Luciano Acosta. Rooney has made most of his appearances in his career as a central striker, but in recent years he's drifted back and played in midfield.
Should manager Ben Olsen want to pair Rooney and Acosta together, Rooney could slide into the top forward spot of that system. But Olsen could also opt to play Rooney alongside forward Darren Mattocks and leave Acosta as the odd one out, shifting to the 4-4-2 he favored during the earlier part of his D.C. coaching tenure.
“I’ve played in many different positions in my career, whether that’s out wide or striker [or] midfield,” Rooney said. “I know where the manager wants to play me. I know he wants me to score goals. I’ll fit in. I’m not worried about that.”
The process of fitting in can't really begin until Friday. While Rooney has begun training with D.C. United academy players after his arrival in Washington last week, the first team have been on the road. After their 3-2 loss at New England, D.C. flew straight to LA to prepare for their match against the Galaxy on Wednesday night (10:30 pm ET | Full TV & Streaming Info).
Rooney isn’t eligible to play until the MLS secondary transfer window opens on July 10. He figures to almost certainly be involved in Audi Field’s opening on July 14 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC (8 pm ET | TV & streaming info)
“He actually asked if he could travel with the team to New England and L.A. to spend time with his teammates,” said D.C. United co-owner and managing partner Jason Levien. “But when we talked about it collectively with our strength and conditioning staff, we said he’s better off because this is his offseason and preseason for him to stay back and work out.”
United are also hoping Rooney can bring some much-needed intangibles to help the side earn better results. Based on D.C.’s performances to date, Kasper said analytics suggest the club should have roughly 16 points rather than the 10 they currently hold. In all, the Black-and-Red have dropped 13 points from winning positions this season.
Rooney, a former captain for Manchester United and England, sees being a guiding force for his new club as part of the deal.
“I think there’s talent in the team,” Rooney said. “I think with a little bit of guidance, with a little bit of help on and off the pitch, I can help them, and also they can help me.”