Despite only winning three games during the first stretch of the regular season, D.C. United has picked up momentum at home in August.
After knocking off the New England Revolution 2-0 at home on August 19, D.C. United picked up its first clean sheet since April. For a team that has struggled defensively all season, Sunday’s victory proved to be a milestone.
With three straight wins for the first time since last August, the club has never looked better this season. While it might be easy to attribute this success to the arrival of forward Wayne Rooney, many have underscored the importance of home-field advantage for this club.
Prior to the start of the season, D.C. United was without a home. The club had moved out of the decaying RFK Stadium and would have to wait months before it could play in its new venue, Audi Field
For most of the first stretch of the season, the club played a majority of its games on the road. The only two exceptions were a pair of games that were played in Maryland at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and the Maryland SoccerPlex.
During this period, D.C. United only had a single win on the road. That win came against the San Jose Earthquakes on May 19. The club’s only other win during that stretch was at home against the Columbus Crew in April.
Midway through July, D.C. United sat at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. The team had only 11 points through 14 games. However, D.C. had played fewer games than most other teams in the league, meaning the club had an opportunity to make up those dropped points later on in the season.
Then on July 14, Audi Field finally opened for business. D.C. United picked up a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps that night. It was the club’s second home victory of the season.
Since then, the club has posted an impressive 5-1-0 record at Audi Field with wins over clubs including the Portland Timbers, the Colorado Rapids and Orlando CIty SC.
With the arrival of forward Wayne Rooney, the club finally has an international star to get behind. This team has lacked an identity for much of the season, but things appear to be changing in Washington.
Sunday’s win over the Revolution helped extend D.C. United’s unbeaten streak to five games.
Despite spending much of the season in the bottom of the cellar, United are now two points behind the Revolution, who are sitting in seventh place in the eastern conference standings.
The club’s playoff chances are still alive. Only six points separate United from the sixth place Montreal Impact.
It’s worth noting that United have played four less matches than the Impact this year. This means that the club has some room to make a run up the standings now.
D.C. United Moving Forward
With a considerable number of home matches remaining on the schedule, United will have to find a way to keep the momentum going in Audi Field. A large part of this burden will likely be on three players.
The first is midfielder Luciano Acosta, who after getting off to a slow this season, has had little trouble finding the back of the net lately.
During United’s last five games, Acosta has scored four goals and collected three assists. His creativity with the ball, his pace and his ability to disrupt opposing backlines makes him one of United’s most valuable midfield pieces.
The club will also have to rely on goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who picked up a clean sheet against the Revolution on Sunday. Hamid recently made his return to the club after being on loan to FC Midtjylland in Denmark.
The 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award winner has replaced goalkeeper David Ousted as the club’s starter. Although Ousted was serviceable in goal, he never really played at the level the club needed him to be. Hamid is a talented shot-stopper, who has proven he can be one of the best goalkeepers in the league.
It’s also worth mentioning that Ousted never kept a clean sheet for United this season and in only two games, Hamid picked up the team’s first shutout of the year against the Revolution on Sunday.
Lastly, there is no other player on the roster who fans and management have higher expectations for than Wayne Rooney. When the club announced it had signed the former Manchester United star, many questioned Rooney’s commitment to the team.
There were those who believed that Rooney would phone it in and put in minimal effort on the field. Many also criticized the club for signing a player who was past his prime and no longer warranted the price tag he was acquired for.
That sentiment seems to no longer exist in Washington. In only eight games this season, Rooney has proven to be the player the club and its fans have wanted and needed to bring life back to the team.
Rooney has scored three goals and collected three assists this season and has also helped motivate his teammates as the club’s captain. Since his arrival, the team has actually looked motivated and organized. They have played with a level of energy that was missing earlier in the season.
Even at 32, Rooney is the best player on his team. His talent and leadership will be vital for United as the club looks to secure a spot in the playoffs.
With nine of United’s last 12 regular season games at home, the pieces are in place for the club to make a run up the standings. Now it is up to the players and head coach Ben Olsen to put it all together at Audi Field.