Featured image courtesy of D.C. United // Hannah Wagner

D.C. United won 2-0 over NYCFC in their final match of the regular MLS season. A must-win fixture for the Black-and-Red, relief was palpable as the final whistle sounded at Audi Field.

The good vibes didn’t last long. Directly after the match, head coach Wayne Rooney announced he was leaving the club and returning to England.

In this evening’s press conference, Rooney said, “I will be leaving the club. I think it’s just the right time. I think I’ve done everything I can to try and get the club into playoffs…rom my point of view, I’ve enjoyed my time here. I think it’s helped me it will help me a lot moving forward as a coach. And I just want to say on record to to everyone involved the club – staff, player, I’m grateful and I wish them nothing but success in the future.”

The match played out well for the Black-and-Red, despite a starting XI missing star striker Christian Benteke (the former Crystal Palace player had taken ill). Benteke has been the driving force behind the Black-and-Red’s attack in recent weeks, but the team stepped up to manage play in his absence.

D.C. managed to create forward momentum as the match began – perhaps a bit too much forward momentum – Erik Hurtado found the back of the net but was far offside in the 8′.

In the 27′ Chris Durkin tried a shot from just outside the box. Audi Field went wild as supporters thought he had scored. Referee Fotis Bazakos denied him, saying the shot had been blocked.

Finally, Mateusz Klich came through to put D.C. United on the board in the 45′. Capitalizing on a set piece, Klich slotted a ball in on the left side past Matt Freese.

Another bright spot in the first 45′? Alex Bono and the Black-and-Red defense. Bono denied a steady stream of attempts from NYC, including Kevin O’Toole, Tayvon Gray, and Andrés Perea, giving D.C.’s offense a chance to gain the edge.

Heading to the locker room in the lead, the Black-and-Red would need to carry their tenacity into the second half.

Back on the pitch for the second 45′ things turned chippy. Within the first ten minutes alone, Andy Najar was nursing the bridge of his nose after a hard knock.

Chris Durkin finally had a strike count, as he whipped a ball in past Freese in the 62′ to bring the scoreline to 2-0 as Audi Field erupted in cheers.

At the final whistle, D.C. United had pulled out a decisive win to end their regular MLS season matches. D.C. United’s future is uncertain now, but the club has time on its side to begin the search for a new manager and adjust course in the coming months.

We’ll be tuned in to see what happens next.

    Watch the highlights from D.C. United vs. NYCFC

    Box Score

    D.C. United: 2 Klich 45′, Durkin 62′


    D.C. United: Alex Bono, Andy Najar (Ruan 75′), Steven Birnbaum (Derrick Williams 51′), Matai Akinmboni (Hayden Sargis 75′), Éric Davis, Chris Durkin, Russell Canouse (Jackson Hopkins 83′), Mateusz Klich, Gabriel Pirani, Ted Ku-DiPietro, Erik Hurtado

    NYCFC: Matt Freese, Birk Risa (Justin Haak 72′), Thiago Martins, Andres Jasson (Julian Fernandez 60′), Kevin O’Toole, Tayvon Gray, James Sands, Santiago Rodriguez, Andres Perea, Talles Magno (Alonso Martinez 72′), Monsef Bakrar (Keaton Parks 80′)

    Misconduct Summary

    D.C. United: Birnbaum (45′ + 1′), Canouse 67′, Klich 90′ + 2′

    NYCFC: O’Toole 75′, Perera 90′ + 7′

    BySarah Kallassy

    Managing Editor

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    Stunned Duck

    One of the best team performances all year. Too little, too late.

    To whoever is hiring Rooney: I think the evidence is that he is an excellent coach. He imparted skills and team-wide collaborative understanding in capability areas^ this organization has not had success with at least since the oughts, and in some ways, ever. Whether he will be a good manager is rather up in the air. He needs a good sporting director to properly manage acquisitions to support his vision, and his tactical nous is very much a work in progress. Motivation was inconsistent, although it does not appear that he ever had any problem keeping the locker room in general.

    ^ The team’s ability to control the midfield and intercept almost every move an opponent might make was, in the first half of the season, almost absurdly good by MLS standards. Similarly, the sophisticated attacking moves we saw late in the year were not solely a function of KDP coming into his own; this game saw many instances of intelligent and skillful progression in the attacking half regardless of which players were doing the progressing.

    Talonesque #

    I think I largely agree, and think you’re certainly on to something. This is what I’ll say for Rooney, the dude can coach a LOT of formations competently, it was talent acquisition and depth that really hurt the team, and while Rooney can’t wash his hands of the responsibility for the squad building, it should not have been his charge to do it all. I don’t think Rooney will ever be an MLS coach in terms of finding value instead of opting for individual quality, and with a salary cap, that’s a constant feature.

    I wonder if you and others would agree, I think someone good should take him on as an assistant coach. I don’t think he’s ready to fully command a team of quality in a big five league in Europe, but surely he’d be a fine project and eventual replacement, like Arteta, at a pretty high level.

    All that said, will be fascinating to see what players for DC say on his departure…

    Last edited 1 month ago by Talonesque #
    Stunned Duck

    I do agree that a couple of years as an assistant would be the most sensible path for him, but he appears committed to the OJT method, and psychologically it’s what you’d expect… he likes to challenge himself and take matters head-on. A return to the Championship should work well enough, in a sink-or-swim kind of way.


    Now it’s time for Kasper to move on as well.


    I now agree. The mid season player signings just weren’t good enough. It was more cheap role players. Nothing role with role players as every team needs depth but the biggest need was a second finisher after Fountas outed himself as a racist ass and had to go.


    Wasn’t the Durkin goal disallowed for offside?

    Talonesque #


    Talonesque #

    Oh, never mind, I see the text you’re referring to- not sure what they meant by that, either


    It’s a very confusing and confused statement. At the game, no replay and no clue why the AR put up his flag (I sit directly opposite, so I have a similar view and I didn’t see sh**). Was it supposedly deflected by a DCU player in an offside position?

    Talonesque #

    As far as I can tell, it was a circuitous problem with the offside/VAR loop, in that the linesmen incorrectly called offside, and the VAR looked to have decided they needed to hold themselves to a clear and obvious error standard, as opposed to looking for a clear offside which absolutely wasn’t there, if anything looked disproven. But, I could be wrong.


    Well, I’ll have more on this later. Based purely on results, our last 10 games indicate Rooney wasn’t pulling the strings correctly. And I put a lot of the talent assessment on him. And he wanted the GM to go through him (not report to the GM). I wish Rooney all the luck in the world. But, sadly, this is probably a good decision by all concerned.

    I saw Matai starting, Hopkins and TKDP getting minutes and I thought “either Rooney’s leaving or he’s concluded the playoffs aren’t happening and he’s doing what he promised he’d do–give the youth some PT.”

    Nice to see we can play the game without being direct all the time.

    Final note: two ex-DCU coaches had teams post 5 goals on opposition and are in the playoffs with weaker rosters/smaller budgets. And some other coaches we considered but ownership wasn’t interested in (Noonan and the guy in Atlanta–drawing a blank on his name) have done well.

    Talonesque #

    I’m with those who are looking past the coaching choice to the GM spot. This is not fertile soil for any coach out there, we need an expert on shit to fertilize and provide a ton of TLC for this place. The squad over time would be better focused toward a style of play and an identity rather than a random hodge podge where each coach who comes tries to drag it in a new direction.

    I’m also going to go with the “Kasper out” people, though I was for a long time in the “keep him for the Byzantine knowledge” minority. Messi might have just ushered in a new era of rules adjustments that someone more nimble and flexible would be better suited for, and let’s be real, the man has long outlived any sense of drive but self preservation.

    Last edited 1 month ago by Talonesque #

    I agree with you now. Before, I thought that Kasper had some value left but the mid season player acquisitions just weren’t good enough. We had a coach with some of the best tactical abilities I’ve ever seen and didn’t give him any attacking reinforcements. That’s on the GM.


    I’m curious to hear other’s thoughts, but this has been on my mind for a while now. On paper, this was a great season to follow up a wooden spoon winning one. So why does it feel just as bad?

    In my opinion there’s a plethora of reasons: streaky and inconsistent form, lack of any real tactics for much of the season, lack of any tenacity for much of the season, multiple 3, 4, or 5 goal losses, awful home record (3 rd worst in the league I believe), puzzling roster decisions, clear lack of future direction, and lastly the inevitability that Rooney was leaving.

    I think the reason that this season was just as frustrating as last season is partly that the even though the results improved, the play largely didn’t. But more so, the FO and coaching staff said from the start of the offseason that DC is in win-now mode, but the only people that really believed that were the coaches players. Maybe others will agree, but DC has been delaying this complete rebuild for far too long.

    Either way, at least the team ended on a high note and hopefully the ownership is already in the process of hiring a new GM.

    Talonesque #

    For me, it was this question: What are we building?

    And the answer was always disturbing.

    Talonesque #

    I’ll just add, MLS teams tend to need either a constant, steady, and healthy approach to their squad maintenance, or they need a root and branch renaissance. It’s evident that this ownership group absolutely doesn’t have the appetite for either. As such, it seems more likely we’ll be seeing Benteke and Klich declining while those around them stay in flux, and the lack of care just means we will in no way have a roster we can truly blow up.


    This team was much better than last year. The team last year was terrible to watch for the whole year.

    This year the team was inconsistent but not terrible to watch. They have moments of playing with crisp passing and good defending, but unfortunately there were other moments. Also, the home record was not good with many ties that could easily have been wins.

    I also think that the unfortunate Taxi situation was more destructive to the team than most think. The situation was bad and they lost a really good offensive (designated) player. This was compounded by O’Brien leaving. Even though he is a good player, I am not sure he was worth the several months he was on the team.

    Finally, I enjoyed seeing Rooney coach. It has to be kept in mind that he is still very young and learning his trade. He kept the team with him until the end of the season and made some good tactical changes during the year. The two main players he brought in (Benteke and Klich) were terrific. I don’t blame him for wanting to return home as most believed he would leave after this year anyway.

    There are lots of changes coming to the team in the off-season. Carl Robinson is a good coach and he would give some continuity to the team. But ultimately, the new GM will have his say.


    I don’t feel bad about this season at all. I liked being able to enjoy the fun stuff. I really liked the possession and I really like watching Benteke play the game as he uses good touch, good decision making, good footwork, and high IQ to improve the team rather then just running.

    I expected an improvement from last year but also a lot of inconsistency as year 1 rebuild teams a usually inconsistent. (Houston is an exception but the circumstances are different in that they had a few good players coming back, needed new tactical direction, and better man management, and also the West was weaker this year). I expected to be fighting for the last playoff spot all year.

    I like that the team is in a better place than when Rooney found them as they were broken physically, mentally, and plain short on talent. Now they are competitive, more coherent tactically, and have some good players to build off of.

    After 2022, I’ll take it. I’ll miss Coach Rooney as his tactics and man management were excellent.


    I think we’re much improved over the Wooden Spoon. Furthermore, we’ve got two DP pieces (Klich–really a box to box mid) and Benteke that are pretty damn good as players and leaders–I’m really glad we’ve got both. I think there are a lot of pieces here (a collection of CBs, 2 GKs, 2 DMs, some young guys) who can be good contributors depending upon the coach and the system. I’m not saying we’re well built or all of our talent decisions were good, only that I think we’re in a far better place than we were this time last year (and not just because of record). But that said, we had total control of our destiny. We didn’t get some bad breaks, we didn’t get hit with horrendous referring decisions, we weren’t on the road for a ton of games, we didn’t face major injuries. We just didn’t get it done in a league where 2/3rds of the teams make the playoffs. So we improved a lot. But with a good chance to be in the middle of the pack of the playoffs, we slipped out. So to me, Rooney deserves both a “thank you” and a “it would be best if we parted company now.”


    I think it feels bad because the team showed in various occasions that they were capable of more. Not at top 10 team but a team good enough for the 7-8 spot in the playoffs. Our playoffs hope did not end in Austin, any chance we had really ended when we allowed a Messi-less Miami to tie the game at home and when we lost any of the home games in which we were the better team for most of it and ended up giving it away in the last few minutes. Inconsistency can sometimes be more crushing than just being consistently bad.

    We certainly need new pieces but we also need to KEEP what is currently working. I hope they keep Pirani if they are able to. He looks to be someone who can only grow. Continue to support TKDP’s development, don’t forget about Hopkins and Greene. I think we need another forward, a true replacement for Benteke and/or someone else who can play off Benteke, someone who can take Teddy’s place if he’s injured or away. I don’t think Fajardo or Nigel can fit either role. But of course all of it will depend on who becomes our coach.

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