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Looking at Wayne Rooney's move to MLS and D.C. United

It's something that football fans are used to hearing in England when a player is on the way out at the elite level. One of the Premier League's finest players, and a former England captain, over the last decade or so has opted for a move across the Atlantic Ocean for a new challenge in Major League Soccer in their early to mid-thirties. The path to MLS has been littered with former English national team players like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, and most famously with David Beckham, the player responsible for the creation of Designated Players in the league. Now, Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney is the latest to enjoy his golden years in MLS, a league that is trying to primarily compete with Mexico's top-flight division, Liga MX. We take a look at Rooney's move across the pond. All aboard.

MLS Fantasy: Gameweek 18

For the 2018 MLS Fantasy season there is a 'Rolling Lockout', which means you can make substitutions and transfers until the second a player's game kicks off, which means you can chop and change your lineup as any Gameweek progresses.

You can view the schedule and a real time Gameweek deadline countdown clock (in the London GMT timezone) on our dedicated MLS Fantasy page.

Rooney chooses The Capital

There has been an obsession with Wayne Rooney and his footballing career from national news outlets ever since the former Everton man scored against Arsenal aged just 16. Since then a move to Man United put Rooney at the heart of daily conversations over at the BBC, the Daily Mail, and The Sun, in particular.

To boost their social media and website engagement numbers, the name Rooney became a massive buzzword to profit off, with new club D.C. United hoping that some of his household acclaim will boost ticket sales for Audi Field's big unveiling in a few short weeks against Vancouver Whitecaps, with D.C. playing the majority of their matches this season away from home.

United are one of the 'original' MLS sides since the league's maiden season in 1996, but only now have D.C. been able to call a place their own, with football-specific stadiums rapidly becoming a necessity for all MLS clubs. Rooney's arrival will be an attempt to better performances on the field, and better the bank balance of United's owners with capacity crowds in the capital.

For us, we feel that given the level of exposure Rooney has adorned in his playing days at Manchester United, it feels alien to us that his eventual departure from the Premier League was cast in the shadow of the World Cup, with his move highly anticipated but ultimately fading into the background. It's as if the book was written, but those who penned his career phoned in an ending.

Are D.C. United any good?

Short answer, D.C. are the weakest teams in MLS by quite a margin. They are currently rock bottom of the overall MLS standings, and bottom of the Eastern Conference with just 10 points from 12 matches played. D.C. have played 3-4 less games than any other team in the league due to fixture arrangements around the new stadium, so the only grain of hope for the season would be that D.C.'s games in hand and Rooney's arrival at Audi Field could spark an unlikely last-minute for for play-offs with the majority of fixtures on newly minted home soil.

Last season however in the 2017 season, D.C. United finished second bottom of a 22-team league and rock bottom of the Eastern Conference with 32 points from 34 matches. The only reason United didn't finish dead last was due to LA Galaxy winning one less game than Ben Olsen's side. In MLS, wins outweigh goal difference, with D.C. United harbouring the worst tally last season, with -29 in the 2017 season.

Speaking more optimistically about the squad, there is a wealth of potential with recent acquisitions. Norwegian shot-stopper David Ousted has impressed in goal this season, whilst Darren Mattocks is the top scorer from the club in MLS this season with 7 goals, and is full of pace, energy, and pressing ability. Yamil Asad, who sits on the left-wing, was the biggest signing in the winter transfer window, joining from Velez Sarsfield on loan with an option to buy, which comes off an stellar first MLS season with Atlanta, with Asad slotting in nicely next to the likes of Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez in their debut MLS season.

Rooney's essentially joining a team that can only quite literally go up. It's a team with a long-standing Head Coach in Ben Olsen, playing at a new stadium looking for fresh impetus and exposure. Rooney's got a tough job ahead of him, especially as his stock was rapidly plummeting in the Premier League after a return to Everton for the 2017/18 season, that is despite being the club's top scorer last season with 10 goals.

Wayne Rooney's MLS Fantasy Potential

The big question with Wayne Rooney's arrival will be where will the former England captain play. In MLS Fantasy, attacking midfielders are points magnets and that could ultimately be the slot that D.C.'s new number 9 slots in at the club. With Mattocks in a lone Forward role, and Arriola and Asad in support on the wings, the likely player to make way for Rooney's arrival, unless they could pair them together would be Luciano Acosta, one of D.C. United's brighter attacking players. Another option is one of the holding players in Jaime Moreno or Ulises Segura will part to create an attacking lineup.

The wider MLS Fantasy format is littered with players brimming with potential on a weekly, but none more so than CAM's that operate in the No. 10 position. It's the only position that will guarantee Rooney the acclaim that D.C. will look to get out of their new Designated Player, and this is due to CAM's absorbing attacking bonus points (successful passes, crosses, shots, key passes).

With any DP they are usually in contention to take set pieces, and we see Rooney being no different. Rooney will probably be taking everything from corners, free-kicks, penalties, and more, with Yamil Asad the only likely competitor to take dead-balls off Man United and England's record scorer.

If Rooney plays in a Forward role the points will be harder to come by as we'll relying on goals and assists alone, with the odd shot point thrown in for good measure, but with D.C. struggling in the table, it'd be a hard sell to get us on board Rooney's potential.

Perhaps the saving grace is D.C.'s fixture list, with the capital side playing only 2 of their 12 games away from home this season. This means of United's 22 remaining fixtures only 7 are away from home, with 15 fixtures at Audi Field yet to be played, including a run of 7 consecutive home matches before the final weekend of the season.

Will the move for Rooney work out?

Of all the MLS sides to bank on, Rooney probably hasn't moved to MLS to be thrown in to immediate MLS Cup contention. Odds aren't in D.C.'s favour to qualify for the play-offs, so the arrival is down to helping embed the club at Audi Field and to help rejuvenate a side that has languished at the foot of MLS for the past few years.

For Rooney the move presents a fresh start and a healthy pay packet, and perhaps greatest of all a quiet exit from the Premier League in a time when his stock as a player was really in question.

The 2018 MLS Fantasy Season

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All aboard.


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