Wayne Rooney smiles - D.C. United
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After two wins, DC United have wind at backs ahead of tricky road trip

WASHINGTON — After consecutive home victories to remain level on points atop the Eastern Conference standings, D.C. United begin a three-match road trip with what could be their most demanding week of travel.

For Wayne Rooney, though, there’s a bright side. A three-game, seven-day stretch that takes the Black-and-Red to Toronto Wednesday (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; TSN in Canada) and then Houston Saturday represents a chance to binge-watch some Netflix in peace.

“I’m looking forward to it — I’ve got my TV series ready,” the star forward and father of four deadpanned. “Listen, I think people make a bit too much of it. It’s a flight Tuesday and a flight Thursday down to Houston. And the game’s over, you’re flying back. It’s two flights where you have to prepare and get ready for the game, which is part of your job. It’s something you have to do.

“I think with four kids at home, if you get used to flying with four kids, then any flight is easy without them.”

It’s an optimistic outlook that should serve D.C. well in what are two difficult away MLS destinations.

United have a winning record at BMO Field, going 8-6-2 there in league matches. But many of those came when Toronto were unrecognizable from the organization that went to back-to-back MLS Cups and the 2018 Concacaf Champions League final.

Last year, before Rooney’s summer arrival, the sides played one of the wildest matches of the season there, a 4-4 draw in which D.C. gave back a three-goal lead.

The city of Houston is a different story for D.C., where they have won only once in 12 regular season matches between BBVA Compass Stadium and Robertson Stadium before that. The Dynamo have also dropped only two points in six home matches this season.

For D.C. coach Ben Olsen, that made home wins over Kansas City and Columbus before that almost mandatory following a three-match home winless stretch.

“Behind closed doors, these were very important points to pick up, especially after we weren’t the sharpest here leading up to these last two home games,” he said Sunday. “To get these six points going into this road trip gives us some confidence. But we understand that when you’re going to Toronto and when you’re going to a tough environment in Houston, against two of the best teams in the league right now, it’ll be tough.”

At the very least, United have already drastically improved their road form from a year ago, taking 10 points from 15 possible outside of Audi Field.

And Sunday’s introduction of outside back Marquinhos Pedroso comes at an ideal time, allowing D.C. to return to their preferred 4-2-3-1 setup. Without two healthy natural outside backs, D.C. had switched to a 3-4-3 for a stretch, and could do so again during this trip to maneuver some squad rotation. But options are always good.

“I think it just shows how good our team is at adapting,” said defender Steve Birnbaum. “And when guys go down, other guys step up. That’s been key for us already. Guys have responded well when they’ve got the chance.”