The crowd of 20,504 seemed a bit “nervy” at first, at least that’s the way D.C. United manager Ben Olsen described both the fans and his team early in the first half. The nerves were gone by the second half as the Black-and-Red put on a show from an attacking standpoint, using two goals to take a 3-0 lead. They would surrender a goal near the end of stoppage time, but the game was definitely in hand by that point. Yamil Asad opened the account at Audi Field with a beautiful goal in the first half, Paul Arriola recorded his first professional brace and the Black-and-Red earned a 3-1 victory. That result made the opening night of their new home that much better, Rooney making his debut didn’t hurt either.
Yamil Asad’s goal came in the 27th minute. The Black-and-Red had been threatening at that point, putting together a few solid build-ups with nothing to show for it. It started with a service attempt from Oniel Fisher, the attempt was blocked and Zoltan Steiber controlled the rebound. He took a quick touch to survey the field before sending a pass to Asad, Yamil took the shot as the ball approached, not wasting any time to settle it. He stepped into the pass and placed a curling shot that the keeper couldn’t reach, Asad went upper 90 and it was a classy strike. This isn’t to say that the Whitecaps didn’t have any opportunities as late in the first half. Kei Kamara was streaking down the field, but the pass from Davies was intercepted by Steve Birnbaum. A few minutes later, Vancouver almost scored on a set piece. The foul was on Fredric Brillant, when he fouled Reyna in the middle of the field. The Whitecaps set piece resulted in a header hitting the crossbar, the best chance they had that half.
D.C. United really took off in the second half, that also may have had something to do with Rooney entering the game in the 58th minute. Nine minutes later Arriola scored his first goal of the night. Asad played a ball to Steiber who one-touched it back to a streaking Arriola, Paul took a nice first touch to settle it before firing the shot to the far post. The keeper got some of the shot, but it still had enough pace on it to bounce off him into the net. From that point on it was clear that Rooney can and will open things up for his teammates, he never stayed on the ball long though. He demands attention because he’s a known goal scorer, Wayne showed the ability to hold up and make plays for others as well as drop underneath when a teammate made a run. It’s really just simple things, but it showed the difference from how the game is thought at the highest level to the MLS. Olsen commented on this to a degree in the post game presser, saying that the game is “a touch slow” for top players that come into the MLS after their time in other leagues.
The last goal from the Black-and-Red came in the 80th minute and Rooney recorded his first assist of the season. It started with Acosta and Rooney linking up again, they had been combining well to unlock the Vancouver defense with simple passes and good movement. On this particular sequence, Lucho played the ball to Wayne and he then made a run towards the goal. Rooney played the ball back to Arriola who filled in behind Acosta. Paul took two touches before firing a blast to the far post, from that angle it was very hard on the keeper and he didn’t have a chance. The Black-and-Red continued to keep things simple, but it was clear that the midfield group and their new acquisition were starting to gel a bit.
It wasn’t a good night for the visiting Whitecaps, but there was a nice display of skill right before the match ended. In the 93rd minute, Davies went one-on-three and came out the other side with a goal. Using two touches to get away from the three D.C. United defenders, Davies left foot unleashed a rocket into the far post. It was a great solo effort from a young player, just not enough of that on the night for the visitors.
Home Field. It’s only one game, but Audi has the potential to be an intimidating place for opponents to play. The way it’s constructed has the fans almost right on top of the field. When the stadium started rocking, the difference between their and the previous home was clear. RFK was too big for MLS matches and even when it was loud, there was too much empty space. Last night, you could really feel the energy from the fans and the noise since the space is a bit smaller.
Midfield. One of the few bright spots over the last two seasons for the Black-and-Red is that they were able to construct and develop this midfield to a degree. It’s a talented group and they’ve definitely played a role into the year Darren Mattocks is having, Asad has continued to come into his own out wide and Arriola has taken off since his move inside. Steiber has continued to be solid and Acosta continues to grow. Not to mention Durkin who’s growing up before our eyes, he’s a gifted passer and has a couple passes each match that are worth praising.
Rooney. His impact was immediate and nothing short of what I expected. He’s a goal scorer’s goal scorer if that makes sense, but he’s also a good soccer player. Last night was an example of how the threat of a goal scorer can open things up for others. He gets a ton of praise for his ability to put the ball in the net, but I’m more impressed by the little things. How he filled gaps when needed, always making himself available for teammates(being in the right spot), his ability to unlock a defense with a pass or two. The scoring will come as he gets his legs and timing under him, but his presence and knowledge allowed him to be a factor last night. That’s not going to go away.
Arriola. I think he may be the player in midfield that benefits most from Rooney being on the field. One of the reasons he was moved inside was that the Black-and-Red had trouble servicing him on a regular basis when he was playing out wide. With Rooney on the field, he will be able to provide those passes that put Paul in spaces that he can use that exceptional pace of his. Again, just one game, but this may be something to keep an eye on going forward.