Rooney’s American Revolution is changing the D.C. sports scene


If there is one thing that Washington D.C. knows well, it’s the idea of someone coming into the city with lots of gusto, promising hope before the arrive, and leaving the American capital unfulfilled and unhappy.

Politicians do it every two to four years, and the sports teams in the city know the drill and act accordingly. The Washington Wizards had the promise of Chris Webber, Gilbert Arenas and even the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, yet all are among those that have disappointed D.C. sports fans.  

The Nationals have a shorter history in D.C., but guys like Jason Werth and soon to leave outfielder Bryce Harper have kept the tradition of underwhelming alive. The Washington Redskins have turned this into an art form, with names such as Deion Sanders, Robert Griffin III, or my personal most/least favorite: Albert Haynesworth, have crushed spirits for years in the D.C. area.

So when Wayne Rooney signed with the D.C. United this June, jaded residents of our Nation’s capital greeted this news with excitement but trepidation. The former England and Manchester United player was coming off of a relatively pedestrian season at Everton, and the move looked like Rooney trying to capture one more major paycheque before he rides off into retirement.

A change in fortune for D.C.

For once, Washington D.C.’s cynicism was unfounded.  Since his debut match with the Black and Red’s when he assisted on a Paul Arriola goal after coming on in the 59th minute, the former England international has been a breath of fresh air.  With 12 goals in 20 appearances, Rooney has lifted a team from the bottom of the Eastern Conference right into the playoffs and brought about renewed excitement to the D.C. area sport scene.

What Rooney and United have been able to accomplish (along with what Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals were able to do when they won the Stanley Cup in the spring) is that they’ve brought a real culture change to the D.C. sports fan’s mindset.  

This is a city that revolves solely around the Washington Redskins. The sports culture around the region is defined by the mediocrity that the Redskins have given off for a little over two decades. The mediocrity and the mindset it engenders has seeped into the character of the D.C. area sports fan.  

The Wazza effect

Rooney and the performance of D.C. United has done something to change that. They’ve won (something this region isn’t used to) and they’ve looked incredible in doing so.

The new look United team with Rooney as its star has been revitalised with the Englishman’s dazzling individual performances, coupled with his selfless ability to make his teammates better.  

This change in the club’s fortunes have awoken a long dormant fan base waiting for something to wake them up. In the early months of the season, before moving into their gorgeous new home, Audi Field, D.C. United were a team without direction and desire.  Their “home” matches in nearby D.C. suburbs had the energy of a nursing home and United’s performance reflected that energy.

While the move to Audi Field has had a hand in changing the culture, it has really been the energy that Rooney and the club have ignited within the club that makes it such a formidable place to play.  There is no greater example of the renewed energy brought to the club than Rooney’s world class tackle and assists to lead United to victory over Orlando at home in the closing seconds of the match.

As Luciano Acosta heads Rooney’s cross into back of the net and celebrates with the raucous supporter section, D.C. long dormant soccer fandom awoke.

 This was a play seen around the world, on Sportscenter, on local news stations. This was a move that people in the area talked about at their local bars. Even during the heyday of D.C. United, the team never really crossed over into the culture of our region.  Rooney and United have changed that.

The nation’s capital is primed to finally embrace D.C. United.  The D.C. region is often either number one or two in the United States in Premier League viewership.  

This is a region that is ready to embrace soccer.

Unfortunately for fans in the region, they haven’t had a local team to really believe in to bring their love for the sport closer to home.  With the rise of United and the spirit that Rooney has brought to the region, that looks like it is starting to change.


About Author

based in Frederick, MD, USA. Multi-sport correspondent for Prost International and Prost Amerika focusing mainly on Soccer/Football and American Football

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