D.C. United-Orlando City Preview
Wayne Rooney and Nani forged a strong on-field relationship as Manchester United teammates for seven seasons. On Sunday night at Orlando City Stadium, the pair will face off as opponents for only the second time and first in a competitive match.
Rooney and D.C. United aim to continue a red-hot start against Nani and an Orlando side that has renewed confidence following its first victory of the season.
As teammates for Man United from 2007-15, Rooney and Nani helped the Red Devils win four league titles, two League Cups and a Champions League. The only time the two were on opposite sides on the pitch came in an international friendly in 2016 that Rooney and England won 1-0 over Nani's Portugal team.
"We were very good friends when we were at Manchester United," Nani said. "Great moments together, I think it's beautiful for the people who support that big club and enjoyed us (when) we played in the same side."
D.C. (2-0-1) enters this matchup following a long layoff after Rooney recorded his first MLS hat trick and added an assist in 5-0 rout of Real Salt Lake on March 16.
"To score a hat trick is always great," Rooney said. "I'm happy to score three, but I'm pleased for the team. It was a great victory for us."
Bill Hamid continued his perfect season with his third clean sheet in as many matches. D.C. hasn't surrendered a goal after three matches for the first time in the franchise's 23-year history. The Black-and-Red have faced 34 shots on the season and relied on Hamid to make 10 saves.
"I'm ecstatic," defender Steve Birnbaum said. "Making sure we kept that zero was a big deal for us. That's our goal every game, and to start the season with three shutouts, it's huge for us. We want to keep it going and build into the next game."
Sacha Kljestan scored the lone goal in the 73rd minute off a feed from Joao Moutinho and Orlando City broke into the win column with a 1-0 road victory over the Red Bulls on Saturday.
"We desperately needed a win and a road win to boost the confidence of our group," Kljestan said.
Nani, who joined Orlando as a Designated Player in the offseason, has yet to find the back of the net through his first four MLS games but does have two assists.
Dom Dwyer, last season's goals leader with 13, leads the Lions with a pair of scores and is tied for the team lead with two assists. Dwyer's 1.71 goals and assists per 90 minutes leads MLS among players who have played at least two full games, just ahead of Minnesota's Darwin Quintero (1.68) and Rooney (1.67).
D.C. went 1-0-1 against Orlando last season, with the teams playing to a 1-1 draw at Orlando City Stadium on March 3, 2018. Luciano Acosta completed a hat trick with a stoppage-time goal to lift the Black-and-Red to a 3-2 victory on Aug. 12, ending a four-game winless stretch in the series.
Updated March 29, 2019