WASHINGTON - It is fair to say D.C. United would not have made the postseason this season without star striker Wayne Rooney. As the all-time leading scorer for Manchester United of the Premier League and the English national team, it is no understatement to say he is one of the best to play to the game.
When D.C. United picked up the 33-year-old this summer, the talk was all about whether he was past his prime. Now, the discussions center solely on the turnaround for the team that he has single-handedly ignited.
On June 28, the soccer legend set foot in the United States as D.C. United's newest and most highly-anticipated acquisition. Nearly three weeks later during D.C. United’s inaugural game at Audi Field on July 18, Rooney made his Major League Soccer debut with one question on everyone's mind – how much of a difference can one player make?
More than three months later, the answer is clear.
But is he surprised about the quick success he has had in the nation’s capital?
“Yeah, it’s been great,” Rooney said. “Everyone talks about that I have come in and done well, but the other players have been fantastic.”
While he is giving praise to his teammates, Rooney has been phenomenal on the field. In 20 appearances, he has scored 12 goals and assisted on seven other scores. He leads the league with four braces – or two goals in a game. He has been named Major League Soccer’s Player of the Week twice.
So perhaps the only thing greater than his play on the pitch is his humility.
“Of course I have had an impact in helping in scoring goals or creating goals, but without the team and without my teammates, it wouldn't be possible,” he said. “I think the rest of the team just needed to believe a bit more in themselves and believe that they were good enough.”
In fact, Rooney believes the key to standing out is fitting in.
“Outside of my family, they are the closest people to me and that is how you have to treat it,” Rooney said.
He’s even joined a fantasy football league with his teammates.
“I didn't know obviously too much about it, but I think it was important to join it because a lot of players talk about it,” he said. “So if you don't show any interest in it, you get left out of the conversations.”
While he said he’s not doing so well in his fantasy league, he is still having a fun time with it.
Also having a good time in Washington is his family.
“It's a nice place and we live in a nice area,” said Rooney. “The kids are settled at school so we are settling in very well.”
Rooney, his wife Coleen and their four boys, from eight months to eight years old, have particularly enjoyed just doing regular things. It’s something his superstardom across the pond never affords.
“It’s a lot easier to do here than back home and I think that benefits the kids more,” he said. “You know you can pick the children up from school and if you want to go to the cinema or the shops or whatever, it's better for them.”
His favorite activity other than playing soccer is golf.
“Obviously it's a little bit difficult with four children, but when I get the time to play, that is what I enjoy most,” he told us.
There are things he misses about home – other family members, friends and Greenwich Mean Time. The large time difference has made it tough to play FIFA 19 with his buddies overseas.
“My friends, we play when they finish work, which is about nine in the evening their time,” Rooney said. “So it's a bit difficult to get on because obviously that is right in the middle of picking the kids up from school.”
It’s something he will have to juggle for at least the next two years – the length of his remaining guaranteed contract with D.C. United. While the team lost to the Columbus Crew Thursday night on penalty kicks in the knockout round of the MLS Playoff, this striker still believes they can do it for the District and win the MLS Cup.
Because Rooney has played so well, there was actually talk of one of his former teams, Manchester United, requesting to have him on loan during the MLS offseason. However, he put those rumors to rest saying he is committed to D.C. United, committed to keeping his family here and D.C. is where he will be.