DC United manager Wayne Rooney sees progress in LAFC loss




LOS ANGELES — For a man who made his living scoring profitably — he’s the best in Manchester United and England national team history — Wayne Rooney isn’t used to empty performances. During a 19-year career, thanks to his power and incisiveness, the football usually made its way into the net.

His playing days, however, are behind him now. He grew a graying beard and devoted his efforts to training. The others must score the goals; it can only instruct and inspire. Five matches into his tenure at DC United, his patience is being tested.

Last in the MLS table at 28 deep, United have made some defensive progress, even without two backline starters sidelined for the season with injuries. The goals, however, remain painfully elusive.

Since a miraculous two-goal finish against Orlando on Rooney’s debut on July 31, United have gone scoreless in four consecutive matches.

The latest was a 1-0 decision against league leaders Los Angeles FC on Tuesday. United have shown character and courage, and under Rooney continue to make small progress.

DC United’s resistance wanes after Steven Birnbaum’s red card in loss to LAFC

With several new players and a new system, however, DC won’t be generating many scoring opportunities. That will probably have to wait until 2023. What little the team creates lacks fulfillment. And so, as encouraging as Tuesday’s performance was against an opponent who have lost once in nearly three months and scored nine goals in their previous two matches, there was nothing to show for it.

“We will continue to improve. I believe it,” Rooney said. “We are in a difficult position, of course, in the league. We’ve brought in quite a few new faces, so it’s going to take some time. We hope we can end the season well and build momentum for next season.

United posed a major threat in each half. In the 26th minute, it took a magnificent save from Maxime Crépeau to prevent DC captain Steven Birnbaum’s header. After Birnbaum was sent off for a second yellow card and LAFC took the lead in the 67th minute, United’s Taxi Fountas hit the post from 30 yards out.

United performed much better on Tuesday than on Saturday, when they lost to the New England Revolution in a 1-0 result that looked more important.

DC United, still adding parts, loses to Revolution

The organization had hoped for a boost this weekend against the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union at Audi Field. But his star summer signing, Belgian striker Christian Benteke, is “very doubtful” of receiving his work visa in time, Rooney said. That would push back his likely debut to August 28 in Atlanta.

Despite the scoring issues, United looked like they could escape Banc of California Stadium with a point.

“I thought we performed well and I thought we caused them problems,” Rooney said. “Brave. We competed.

The yellow cards, however, were piling up. And in the 60th minute, Birnbaum received a second, resulting in his first sending off since a 2014 US Open Cup match.

“I can’t go to the ground like this [and take down Kellyn Acosta] and make the decision for him,” Birnbaum said of referee Ramy Touchan. “I take responsibility for it. I felt like I let the team down a bit. »

He will be sorely missed against Philadelphia, who six weeks ago beat United 7-0 in Chester, Pennsylvania.

“Steve is an experienced player,” Rooney said. “He knows that if you put yourself in these situations [already] on a yellow card, then you may get a red.

While Rooney had no complaints about Birnbaum’s expulsion, he was upset with Touchan’s overall work. United players received six yellows; LAFC got one towards the end for wasting time.

“It’s a league that is growing and improving, and I have a lot of respect for the referees,” Rooney said. “I understand that it is a very difficult job. But if I can voice my opinion without getting in trouble, I felt there were plenty of people in the game who could do better.

Rooney was happy with goalkeeper David Ochoa, a prized 21-year-old acquired last month from Real Salt Lake. On his DC debut, Ochoa made two fabulous saves in the second half and showed control of the penalty area throughout the night.

A star last season but at odds with RSL manager Pablo Mastroeni this year, Ochoa hasn’t played in any regular season matches.

“It’s been a while,” said Ochoa, a Southern California native who had 20 friends and family in attendance. “I was a little shaky at first, a little nervous. Once the whistle sounded, that adrenaline kicked in. I’m happy to get back on the pitch and continue to make a name for myself.

The performance likely lifted him to the top of the depth chart, ahead of Rafael Romo, the starter since June 18 in place of veteran Bill Hamid, who is recovering from hand surgery.

Ochoa and United also took advantage of LAFC’s imperfections.

“Just a night off for our forwards,” said coach Steve Cherundolo, whose side have a nine-point lead in the race for the Fans’ Shield (points champion) and are on course for the best regular season in MLS history. “Same result, however. This is what is important.

The attack clicked in the 67th minute, on a counter led by Carlos Vela. Cristian Arango took Ochoa out, then crossed to replace Kwadwo Opoku for an easy goal.

LAFC (18-4-3) have won a club-record seven league matches in a row, more wins than United (6-15-4) have had all season.

Nevertheless, Rooney remains optimistic – even if his team cannot score.

“We handled the game well and I think we deserve something outside the game,” he said. “It’s a shame. We went to 10 men and conceded the goal, but there are a lot of positives.