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D.C. United beat Whitecaps in Audi Field opener, Rooney debut

July 15, 2018

It was the best night D.C. United could have hoped for. Two debuts. One win.

United defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 Saturday night, in the first MLS game for both new soccer-specific stadium Audi Field and newly-arrived English star Wayne Rooney.

Yamil Asad scored the first goal in Audi Field history and Paul Arriola doubled and tripled the lead in the second half. Rooney assisted Arriola’s second goal.

An announced sellout crowd of 20,504 came to the new stadium in the Buzzard Point neighborhood near Nationals Park. In addition to taking in a rare Black-and-Red victory, that crowd saw Rooney make his first appearance for D.C. United when he subbed on in the second half.

United coach Ben Olsen called Saturday “a long day.”

“It’s up there, right? This is one of the great nights in D.C. United history,” Olsen said. “And we’ve had some good ones.”

“It was a big night for the club to open the new stadium. It was important we got the win,” Rooney said. “We said before the game, whatever happens on the pitch, we have to try and come out with three points.”

United (3-7-5) out-attacked the Whitecaps (7-8-5) throughout the first half, starting in the seventh minute when Joseph Mora hooked up with Luciano Acosta on a cross into the box. Acosta’s shot was blocked, but he was back at it just four minutes later, dribbling through four or five opponents with help from a quick give-and-go pass to and from Darren Mattocks. Brian Rowe stopped Acosta’s culminating shot.

Asad broke through in the 27th minute. When a United cross was blocked toward the top of the box, Zoltan Stieber passed to Asad, who curled a shot over Rowe and in.

United goalkeeper David Ousted collided with Vancouver’s Doniel Henry late in the half and was tended to by medical staff, but he stayed in the game. The Whitecaps got in some crosses in the opening minutes of the second half, but Ousted and the defenders kept them at bay.

Then, in the 58th minute, Wayne Rooney trotted on to relieve Mattocks. The first substitution in Audi Field history was greeted with elation after several “We want Rooney” chants rang through the arena.

In short order, Rooney took a free kick, then put a shot on goal from the right side of the box. Neither play amounted to anything in the box score, but the 32-year-old forward indicated he would be active the rest of the game.

And lo, he was involved in D.C.’s second goal, a sharp passing attack in front of the box. Rooney passed back to Acosta, who sent it across to Stieber. Stieber’s second assist of the night was a quick dunk in front to Arriola, whose ensuing shot glanced off Rowe’s shin and past him.

Rooney found Arriola in the 80th minute for the final goal of the game and Rooney’s first assist in the MLS. Arriola’s shot hit the bottom-right corner of the goal.

Vancouver 17-year-old midfielder Alphonso Davies beat three defenders and curled in a goal during stoppage time, the only blemish on the night for United.

“It wasn’t just any other game. It really wasn’t,” Olsen said. “A lot of weight on the guys, I think, a lot of weight on the staff to make sure we opened this building the right way.”

United earned just its third win of the season, pushing them up to 14 points in the standings. After a short trip to play Atlanta, the club’s next game at Audi Field is July 25 against New York Red Bulls.

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