Averaging a league best 52,409 for games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, including an MLS single-game record 72,243 for last week’s 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders, the Atlanta United aren’t exactly hurting when it comes to getting people through the turnstiles. And the Eastern Conference leaders can expect another large turnout on Saturday afternoon when D.C. United and longtime Premier League star Wayne Rooney visit.
It will be the first road game and likely the first start for the former Manchester United and Everton star, who garnered an assist in 32 minutes of action in a 3-1 victory over Vancouver in his MLS debut last Saturday at Audi Field.
Rooney, who ranks second in Premier League history with 208 career goals, inked a three-and-a-half-year deal with D.C. United on June 28 following a permanent transfer from Everton, where he scored 10 goals and had two assists in 31 Premier League matches during the 2017-18 season.
D.C. United (3-7-5, 14 points) enters the contest with the second fewest points in MLS while Atlanta United (12-4-5, 41) has a one-point lead over New York City FC in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. But the Five Stripes, who already own a 3-1 victory over D.C. United in the second game of the season, know the addition of Rooney will make things a whole lot tougher this time around.
“He obviously brings a bit of a confidence factor for them in terms of his quality, so we know it’s not going to be an easy game,” Atlanta United goalie Brad Guzan, who faced Rooney while playing at Aston Villa, told MLSsoccer.com.
“Any institution, when a player of Rooney’s magnitude arrives, it produces a positive impact for the club,” added Atlanta United coach Tata Martino. “And it looks like from the 30 minutes or so that I saw of his game against Vancouver that he’s arrived in pretty good form.”
D.C. United coach Ben Olsen agreed.
“I thought we looked sharp in the second half (against Vancouver), in particular when Rooney came on,” Olsen said. “We saw what Wayne is - a high quality, elite soccer player.”
Atlanta United has a star of its own in 25-year-old Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez, who leads the MLS with 19 goals — seven more than anyone else in the race for the Golden Boot.
—Field Level Media