D.C. United: The Wayne Rooney departure an unmitigated disaster

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) during second half action against the Chicago Fire at Audi Field. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) during second half action against the Chicago Fire at Audi Field. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images) /

On Tuesday morning, Wayne Rooney returned to England as a player-coach at Derby County. His exit is an unmitigated disaster for D.C. United.

For D.C. United, this week, disaster struck. Designated Player and indisputable star Wayne Rooney returned to his homeland to take a player-coach role with Championship side, Derby County — what this says about Major League Soccer is best not thinking about here, although it is certainly worrying that someone would rather play for/coach a middling second-tier English team than be the star in an MLS Cup contender.

Rooney travelled to England this week to finalise an 18-month deal that will begin in 2020, at the conclusion of D.C. United’s campaign. The striker cited wanting to be closer to his family as a major reason for his return, as well as the opportunity to open up avenues in a potential coaching career upon his playing retirement.

The fact that Rooney will return to close out the season for United is a huge blessing. While he has not played at the same level as last season, his 11 goals and seven assists are both team-leading tallies in this campaign. If he was to leave now, it would be truly catastrophic. As it is, Rooney’s impending exit is only a looming disaster.

D.C. may have time to find a replacement for the Englishman, and his exit will of course open up another DP slot which could be used, but Rooney is not the only exit that they may have to deal with in the upcoming offseason.

Bill Hamid’s loan is coming to an end. He will return to Denmark. Luciano Acosta could also be on the way out. He very nearly made a European move last winter, but the deal ultimately fell through. Meanwhile, Lucas Rodriguez and Leonardo Jara are only on loan for the remainder of the season and will return to their parent clubs this offseason also. All in all, D.C. will have to replace at least four key starters, one of which is there best player by some distance. And it could be more.

In a season that was meant to be D.C. United’s real push for both the MLS Cup and long-term relevance as a contender for the major honours on a yearly basis, Dave Kaspar is now facing down the barrel of a rather heavily loaded gun. Suddenly, he has a lot of work to do.

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The impending signing of Ola Kamara will help. The Norwegian is currently plying his trade in China, but after 48 goals across three seasons in MLS, he is expected to return to America in a $2.5 million deal, which is the second-highest that D.C. United have ever paid for a player, coming narrowly behind the $3 million transfer for Paul Arriola in 2017. However, he is not the same calibre as Rooney alone, nevermind all the other talent that is seaping away from Audi Field at the end of the year.

Suddenly, in an offseason where D.C. should have been just rounding out their roster, fine-tuning it as they look to keep pace with the best in MLS, they are now having to completely remake the top-end of their team. And if Rooney was to stay, while the other departures would be troubling, they would not be viewed as utterly unhinging. However, with Rooney also on his way out, the foundations of this D.C. team are being ripped apart.

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Rooney’s return to England, then, is an unmitigated disaster for D.C. United. It is exactly what they did not need at exactly the wrong time. This is going to be a very busy offseason indeed.