EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day at 8 pm ET, full-match replays of MLS Classics will be released in their entirety on YouTube, Facebook, MLSsoccer.com, and the official MLS app (check out the full schedule). Among the MLS Classics: Wayne Rooney's memorable, game-saving play against Orlando City in the early days at Audi Field.
Rooney was the big name the club craved as it embarked on a new era, but could he be a difference-maker in MLS?
He put that question to rest early on in his MLS stay, with the exclamation point provided by an incredible play on Aug. 12, 2018 at home against Orlando City. Just ask head coach Ben Olsen, who later reflected on the sequence's overall significance.
“He made a hell of a play,” Olsen said. “It’s what he’s about. He’s a winner and he’s selfless and he’s come here to prove himself even though he doesn’t need to.”
Watch the video below, as Rooney, his coach and his teammates re-live his signature moment:
So, what happened?
With the game knotted at 2-2 deep in stoppage time, the Black-and-Red chased a late go-ahead goal in the hope of turning a disappointing draw into a momentous three points, not to mention a critical victory for their postseason hopes. With Orlando down to 10 men, Zoltan Stieber stood over a last-ditch corner kick and even D.C. goalkeeper David Ousted joined the scrum.
But the Lions cleared the ensuing service and turned it into a breakaway opportunity with Will Johnson driving upfield toward an empty D.C. goal. As he crossed the halfway line, Johnson merely needed to send the shot on frame, or pass to one of several onrushing teammates, to claim a shorthanded win for Orlando.
Except Rooney wasn’t having any of it.
He sprinted back to chase down Johnson, who took a long touch around midfield. Rooney, seizing his chance, slide-tackled the ball away from Johnson and quickly reversed course on the counterattack.
After sizing up the scene in front of him, Rooney took a few touches before floating a pinpoint 50-yard ball to Acosta, who proceeded to out-jump Chris Mueller at the back post. The 5-foot-3 midfielder posterized Mueller to head into the far corner, capping his hat-trick.
“It was strange,” Rooney said after the match. “We went from losing the game, basically, to winning in the space of five seconds. [But] it’s great. They’re the best games of football to win.”
If that wasn’t pulsating enough, the play went to Video Review to determine whether Acosta was offside. The three points hung in the balance as head referee Juan Carlos Rivero went to the monitor.
But everything checked out and the #LuchoRoo combination was officially born.
What followed the win was a memorable late-season surge up the Eastern Conference standings and into the playoffs for D.C. United.
In one flash of brilliance from Rooney, D.C. went from a disappointing home draw to three glorious points. And Rooney announced to MLS that he was fully committed to the cause.
“Seeing a player like Wayne make that effort to run all the way back, make that tackle, put in that work, it motivates all of us,” Acosta said. “It gave us that extra push that we needed."