2019 MLS Week 17 Preview — D.C. United (8-6-4) vs. Toronto FC (6-4-7)

After sparking an excellent party time at Audi Field with his 75-yard worldie, Wayne Rooney and D.C. United look to stay in the hunt for the top spot in the Eastern Conference on Saturday night versus Toronto FC.

A world-class scorer at his previous stops with Everton, Manchester United and England before coming across the Atlantic last year to join D.C. United, Rooney has an instinctive touch when it comes to creating goals. Such was the case Wednesday night against Orlando City when the All-Star took note keeper Brian Rowe would drift high into his penalty area when the Lions had possession.

Rooney acted on that nugget of information after getting a clearing pass from his back line, taking a peek to see where Rowe was before uncorking a shot from his half of the pitch that sailed over the outstretched Lions keeper and into the back of the net in the 10th minute.

It also stood as the match-winner for D.C. (8-6-4), which recorded a 1-0 victory that snapped a five-match winless streak in league play and took some of the sting out of their fifth-round U.S. Open Cup loss to New York City FC during the Gold Cup recess.

“So many times, different managers, teammates, are like: ‘Why are you practicing this? You won’t score from this position,'” Rooney told The Washington Post after scoring his ninth goal of the year and 21st in 38 league matches with D.C. “On nights like tonight, it’s why I do practice it. It was a good strike and important goal.”

Coach Ben Olsen was pleased with the three points that drew the Black-and-Red within two points of conference-leading Philadelphia, but he also saw his side be too impatient in the final third. That could prove problematic with key offensive options Paul Arriola and Junior Moreno with the U.S. and Venezuela, respectively, at international tournaments.

“We weren’t able to secure the ball and dictate the game,” Olsen noted. “So there’s a happy medium in there somewhere that we have to find if we’re going to go to where we want to go. It’s a good win. Don’t get me wrong. But we have to evolve.”

Toronto FC (6-4-7) ended an eight-match winless streak (0-3-5) in dramatic fashion Wednesday night with a 3-2 win over reigning MLS Cup champion Atlanta United. Alejandro Pozuelo converted a go-ahead penalty in the 94th minute, and the Reds were fortunate to take all three points as Pity Martinez skied a potential equalizer from the spot in the game’s final kick on 98 minutes.

Toronto’s offense, missing two vital cogs as Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are with the U.S. at the Gold Cup and six regulars overall, got an inspired performance from 19-year-old Jacob Shaffelburg. The Nova Scotia native set up both of Toronto’s goals in the run of play, one by Tsubasa Endoh 29 seconds into the match and one by Pozuelo on 27 minutes.

“It was an amazing feeling. That was the most fans (24,598) I’ve played in front of before,” Shaffelburg told the Toronto Sun after his first MLS start. “It was just a surreal feeling.”

Pozuelo, who will join Rooney at the MLS All-Star game versus Spanish side Atletico Madrid in Orlando at the end of July, has seven goals and eight assists.

The teams played out a lopsided 0-0 draw in Toronto on May 15. United, in the midst of a three-match stretch in a six-day span, played an ultra-defensive style and did not bring on Rooney and Luciano Acosta until after halftime.

D.C. keeper Bill Hamid finished with 12 saves as Toronto amassed a whopping 34-3 edge in shots, including 14 on target to United’s two.

(Wayne Rooney photo courtesy D.C. United official Twitter account)

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