By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) – Wayne Rooney’s Major League Soccer adventure came to a sour end along with DC United’s season on Saturday as Toronto FC scored a wild 5-1 extra-time playoff win to send the former-England captain on to his next career stop.
Rooney’s departure proved far less exciting than his celebrated arrival on the MLS scene just last year when the one-time wunderkind and Manchester United all-time leading scorer was hyped as the second coming of David Beckham.
But in a career packed with glory and trophies Rooney’s time in the MLS will appear as nothing more than a footnote.
There will be no great achievement to underline his nearly two-year sojourn to the United States, the 33-year-old unable to add to his legacy of twice getting his club into the postseason but never winning a match.
If Rooney enjoyed his time in North America he kept it to himself on Saturday, dressing quietly and then offering nothing more than a stone-faced glance in the direction of the media as he turned and left the dressing room without saying a word, leaving it to team mates and coaches to reflect on his contributions.
“I think he gave a lot to the organisation, he was a great team mate,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “I think he was good to our fans and he was very appreciative of the support he got with our fan base and the community, the DC area.
“It’s an unfortunate way for him to finish.
“I am sure he would have wanted to hit the back of the net and push us into the next round but that’s not how it went.”
Rooney finished Saturday’s contest on the bench after being substituted in overtime, but did not depart BMO Field without offering a reminder of why he is rated one of the game’s great predators.
Twice during a one minute stretch during the second half with Toronto clinging to a 1-0 lead, Rooney forced TFC’s Quentin Westberg to make spectacular saves, later patting the keeper on the back as he walked away shaking his head and looking towards the heavens.
A stoppage-time equalizer from Lucas Rodriguez off a Rooney corner cancelled Toronto’s 1-0 lead but did nothing to deflate the homeside who struck four times in the extra session, including a pair from Jonathan Osorio and one each from substitutes Richie Laryea and Nick DeLeon.
Rooney did not bring the charisma of former England captain Beckham to the MLS but offered a well marketed blue collar appeal and a rich resume of success and trophies, including five Premier League titles, an FA Cup and Champions League crown.
There were a few highlight reel moments during his time in the United States, including a brilliant long range strike from his own end of the field against Orlando, while a Twitter spat between his wife Coleen and the wife of his former-England Jamie Vardy kept him in the English tabloid headlines.
But there was nothing accomplished on North American pitches that added anything of substance to his reputation.
He brought a bit more attention and a put few more fans in the seats as DC United moved from RFK Stadium to their new state-of-the-art home Audi Field, but never came close to elevating the MLS profile the way Beckham had on his arrival in Los Angeles in 2007.
Beckham’s impact on the MLS is still being felt while Rooney returns to England to be a player-coach with EFL Championship side Derby County having failed to leave his mark on MLS.
(Editing by Richard Pullin)