How Wayne Rooney has transformed DC United's MLS season

Having helped DC United from the bottom of its conference to the playoffs, we look at the Opta numbers behind Wayne Rooney's MLS season.

Rooney, who turned 33 this week, left boyhood club Everton to join the four-time MLS Cup champion in mid-July.   -  AP

England and Manchester United's all-time record scorer Wayne Rooney is proving a hit Stateside having galvanised a DC United side now bound for the 2018 MLS playoffs.

Rooney, who turned 33 this week, left boyhood club Everton to join the four-time MLS Cup champion in mid-July, when it was bottom of the Eastern Conference and in need of a minor miracle to reach the post-season.

Yet, Rooney's monumental impact in the American capital has ensured that United will be one of the dozen teams in the playoffs, which begin next week.

Here, we look at the Opta numbers behind Rooney's MLS campaign and the effect he has had on an in-form DC United side.

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DC United's form

Prior to Rooney's arrival, United had won just two of its 14 games and had taken 0.8 points per game. It had been two months since their last victory, but the winning feeling returned when Rooney made his debut off the bench against Vancouver Whitecaps in a 3-1 victory on July 15.

That was the first of 12 wins in 19 games since Rooney joined, with United having taken two points per game in that time and having won five on the bounce.

Despite that, United is yet to win any of its four away games with Rooney in its ranks, a sequence it will hope to put an end to at Chicago Fire this weekend.

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DC United's attack

United's goal difference was -6 prior to Rooney's debut. Over the past 19 games it is +16. It is only scoring 0.3 more goals per game and have improved its shot-conversion rate from 14.8 per cent to 16 per cent.

Its expected goals (xG) per game pre- and post-Rooney is exactly the same - 1.5 - so the team's defence deserves plenty of credit for that improved goal difference.

The Washington-based club have kept three clean sheets over its past five games, having conceded at least once in 20 of its first 21 matches.

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Rooney's goals

Since Rooney's first start against Atlanta United on July 21, he is MLS' top scorer with 12 goals. The Englishman has found the net once every 126.6 minutes since his debut from the bench against Vancouver the week before.

Two of those dozen efforts have been direct free-kicks and nine have been scored with his right foot  – both the most in that respective category among MLS players in Rooney's time in America – while another three have come from the penalty spot.

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Rooney's attacking influence

Rooney's influence has extended beyond just goals as he has provided seven assists too. The most incredible of those came against Orlando City when he executed a sliding tackle that may have stopped a goal at one end, and delivered a long ball onto the head of Luciano Acosta for the 96th-minute winning goal in a 3-2 success.

Rooney's direct involvement in 19 goals (12 goals and seven assists) is the most in MLS since his debut. Interestingly, he is averaging 57.2 touches per game, only the 110th most among players that have played at least seven games in that timeframe.

Thankfully, for a resurgent DC United, Rooney has certainly made the most of those occasions when the ball has been at his feet.

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