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D.C. United names Wayne Rooney new head coach

After a listless D.C. United squad failed to remotely challenge Nashville SC in front of the first sellout crowd of the season, it felt as if the season — not even halfway completed — was already lost. Without a serious infusion of talent and money, the former pillar of Major League Soccer was destined to remain a small-market club in a town desperate for better.

One match later, an emphatic 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Philadelphia, management seemingly came to the same conclusion. D.C. United co-owner Jason Levien reached out to a familiar face and convinced one of the franchise’s most famous players to come back to his unofficial home away from home.

With that, Wayne Rooney becomes the ninth head coach in franchise history. Three years after Rooney made a hasty retreat from our nation’s capital back to England, the 36-year-old superstar returns in an effort to once again make the black and red relevant.

During his first stint in town, Rooney admirably served as a team captain/savvy veteran as he lifted D.C. United from the dregs of the league (21st overall in 2017) to qualify for the playoffs in both 2018 and ’19. Now he returns to a club in even worse shape than before in an entirely new role — that of a relatively inexperienced manager. For the last three years, Rooney has been with Derby County — initially serving as a player/coach before transitioning full time into a managerial role.

Rooney’s time with the Rams was far from ideal, as the club faced financial problems which ultimately caused Derby County to be relegated to England’s third division. That said, Rooney received praise for handling such an adverse situation and the development of several of the clubs younger players. After turning down a chance to manage Everton and accepting D.C. United’s offer, England’s all-time leading scorer won’t lose sleep over the possibility of relegation. But he will once again find himself game-planning against teams with much greater talent and resources at their disposal.

Aside from all-star forward Taxiarchis Fountas, there is a serious lack of talent on the current roster. Levien and friends broke the bank, paying a reported million dollars per season (three times more than the previous coach earned) to entice one of the biggest names in world soccer to pick up the phone. Hopefully the new manager received similar assurances from the ownership group that their notoriously tight pursestrings will be loosened as Rooney embarks on his latest reclamation project. Otherwise, 18 months from now, D.C. United might once again be faced with life after Wazza.


Things go from bad to worse as Music City routs Chocolate City

When D.C. United hired Hernán Losada, he was hailed as a young and innovative manager who would introduce the nation’s capital to modern day, offensive-minded soccer. Just 15 months later and only six games into the MLS season, Losada was fired.

“We felt like we should be doing better,” said D.C. United co-owner Jason Levien. “A lot of an organization’s role with players is to inspire them to play their best. We felt like we weren’t getting that. Unfairly or not, sometimes that falls on the manager.”

Firing Losada a month into the season clearly changes the trajectory of the current season for United, but it’s not unfair to question how competitive the squad was going to be this campaign anyway — after the club spent the offseason sending away its best players.

Earlier this year, D.C. United sold talented midfielder Kevin Paredes to German club Wolfsburg for a fee of more than $7 million and traded winger Paul Arriola to FC Dallas in exchange for $2 million in allocation money. Paredes and Arriola were two of the team’s best players last season and, thanks to their time with the U.S. Men’s National Team, were quite possibly the only two assets on the current roster worth the price of admission.

Without them, and without the highly-touted manager who was supposed to stabilize the franchise, D.C. United looks completely lost. Forward Taxiarchis Fountas, who the club acquired from Rapid Vienna, looks to be the real deal, but he’s basically a one-man show these days as the black and red continue to plummet down the MLS standings. After falling to Nashville SC 3-1 in a game that remained competitive for roughly five minutes, it’s clear that this franchise is in need of a serious infusion of talent and money. Until then, D.C. United will continue to be a small market club in a town that is desperate for better.


As England falters, D.C. United rises to the occasion

While millions worldwide turned their attention to the European Championship as England battled Italy in the finals, our nation’s capital hosted an international soccer tournament of its own — with D.C. United taking on Costa Rica’s Alajuelense in the 2021 Capital Cup finals.

When the inaugural tournament was originally announced last month, it was intended to be a four-team event. Unfortunately, due to health and safety protocols, both Alianza FC (El Salvador) and Club Puebla (Mexico) were unable to participate, so the “tournament” became a two-game tie between the remaining parties.

After D.C. United scored a 1-0 victory over Alajuelense via midfielder Felipe Martins’ free kick in the 87th minute Wednesday, the black and red entered Sunday’s finale with the narrowest of leads.

While both teams had several chances throughout an entertaining matchup, it was forward Jovanny Bolivar’s 68th-minute tally that ensured D.C. United won the 2021 Capital Cup over Costa Rica’s Alajuelense (2-0 on aggregate).

Forward Kairou Amoustapha appeared to score for the home team three minutes later on a link-up play with Bolivar, but the would-be goal scorer was deemed to be offside on the play. 

Although Gareth Southgate and the Three Lions were unable to “bring it home” in the Euro 2020 finals, Bolivar’s goal and several key saves by goalie Jon Kempin ensured D.C. United avoided a similar fate and actually earned some hardware during one of the most soccer-crazed weekends of 2021.


As Gonzalo Higuain goes up in flames, D.C. United smokes Inter Miami

It’s probably a good thing Inter Miami owner David Beckham is currently focused on the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship because his club is a bit of a disaster on and off the pitch these days.

After making a name for himself playing for some of the heavy hitters in world soccer — including Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus — Inter Miami striker Gonzalo Higuain made a business decision to take his talents to South Beach last year.

“I thought I would come here and play with a cigarette in my mouth and, instead, it is difficult,” Higuain said of Major League Soccer last week.

“It is a tough league,” he added.

In related news, Inter Miami coach Phil Neville opted to leave his team’s highest-paid player home until Higuain improves his fitness. Considering the 33-year-old is the third highest paid player in MLS at $5.79 million, showing up in shape and ready to contribute shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation.

Thanks to Higuain’s bloated paycheck, Inter Miami tops the league in salary spending this season (at $17.8 million), while D.C. United ranks 20th ($10.3 million). And yet, for the second time in three weeks, the black and red easily dispatched Inter Miami — this time 1-0.

Striker Ola Kamara converted a penalty kick in the 72nd minute for D.C., while Miami was forced to finish the match with just nine players after midfielder Gregore picked up a second yellow card and defender Ryan Shawcross earned a straight red card for his overzealous goonery in the second half.

With the win, D.C. United improved to 4-5-0 on the season, while Inter Miami dropped to 2-5-2 after being shut out for the fifth time in seven matches.


New-look D.C. United shows signs of life in loss to Orlando City

For more than two decades, Ben Olsen was the heart and soul of D.C. United. After spending 11 seasons in the nation’s capital as a player, Olsen became the team’s coach in 2010. When D.C. United and the 44-year-old parted ways last fall, it meant the club would need to establish a new identity. 

Meet Hernán Losada. The 38-year-old Argentine was clearly not a household name before he was announced as Olsen’s successor, but his arrival signaled an absolute changing of the guard in D.C.  

No longer will D.C. United sit back and go passively into the night. Losada’s brand features a high-pressing, high-energy style of play that will definitely make the black and red more fun to watch … once his current players are up to speed with the system and the front office adds a few more pieces to the roster.  

In the meantime, frustrating matches like this one – where D.C. United had the bulk of possession, a 10-2 advantage on corner kicks and outshot Orlando City SC 13-6, but lost 1-0 – are bound to happen. Optimistic fans should remain hopeful that better days are ahead for one of the original titans of Major League Soccer. 


Old England beats New England as Wayne Rooney bests Revolution

For better or for worse, D.C. United called RFK Stadium home for the franchise’s first 23 seasons. While the stadium, which opened back in 1961, was the backdrop of many fond memories for D.C. sports fans over the years, its best days are clearly long gone. 

With the construction of Audi Field complete, D.C. United finally has a state-of-the-art venue where fans can enjoy the black and red brand … without having to encounter a rodent infestation or fear of the building literally crumbling beneath them. 

As if that’s not enough cause for celebration, the franchise took further steps to entice fans – both old and new – to take in a match by signing one of the biggest names in modern soccer history in Wayne Rooney. Earlier this summer, the former Manchester United standout signed a three-and-a-half year deal with D.C. United, making him the team’s highest paid player while giving the club a marquee name and a much-needed infusion of talent. 

Rooney and friends have wasted little time settling in at Audi Field, as evident by their 2-0 win over the New England Revolution. Goals by Luciano Acosta and Zoltan Stieber paved the way for the team’s third home victory in eight days. 


Real Madrid visits D.C., continues dominance over Juventus

Real Madrid and Juventus are, without a doubt, two of the biggest clubs in world soccer. The names and faces involved might change over the years, but those two behemoths remain remarkably consistent – which is why more than 70,000 fans packed into FedEx Field for a preseason friendly. 

When these two storied clubs battled in the UEFA Champions League finals last year, Real Madrid defeated Juventus, 4-1.  

In the rematch, albeit with much lesser stakes, the 12-time European champion once again emerged victorious, this time by a score of 3-1, thanks to three unanswered goals. Juventus jumped out to an early lead thanks to a Real Madrid own goal in the 12th minute, but promising youngster Marco Asensio scored twice and Gareth Bale netted the other in the win. 

Christiano Ronaldo, who is moving on to Juventus after playing nine seasons with Real Madrid, was not in attendance for the exhibition match between his former and current team. He and his Portugal teammates were taking well-deserved time off after a strong showing during the World Cup. 

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