Wayne Rooney was not the only notable absence from D.C. United’s lineup Sunday for the 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. Luciano Acosta was left out of the starting lineup and did not enter in the second half.
The only other time he had not played this season was when he was serving a two-game, red-card suspension. Twice this year he came off the bench — for tactical reasons at Toronto and because of illness at Dallas.
“Coach’s decision,” Ben Olsen said Sunday. “It’s not about sending messages. It’s just about putting a team on there that I think can win the game. And he just wasn’t in that.”
Acosta (10 goals, 17 assists last year) has not had a great season (five goals, two assists), showing only occasional flashes of the form he displayed the second half of the 2018 campaign after Rooney arrived.
“He is still a part of this team, and he is still going to play a big role in it,” Olsen said. “Tonight it was just a coach’s decision that on this game I didn’t choose him to be part of the group to have success. That doesn’t mean next weekend will be the same. We will evaluate each game and put the team out there we think can win.”
In other words, Acosta is not an automatic starter, even when, like Sunday, United is badly understaffed because of injuries (Russell Canouse and Chris Durkin), illness (Rooney) and suspension (Junior Moreno).
The benching comes at a time of growing speculation about his future. In the last year of his contract, he rejected United’s offer early this season of a new deal that would have approximately quadrupled his $600,000 salary.
That offer no longer stands, and United could end up selling him in the coming weeks. His stock on the international market, however, has dropped, with most interest coming from clubs in the Middle East.
United officials have not ruled out re-signing him in the coming months, but if a deal is not struck, the sides will enter an offseason of uncertainty. Acosta could eventually sign with United or leave on a free transfer after four up-and-down seasons.
Ibra record-setter: Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic set an MLS record by launching 14 shots, one better than the previous mark accomplished twice by former Toronto FC ace Sebastian Giovinco. Ibrahimovic, however, did not score, his third consecutive empty performance and fourth in five matches.
The Galaxy posted 28 shots overall but put just four on goal. United outfield players blocked 13 of them, and D.C.'s Bill Hamid was credited with three saves, though he seemed to have stopped more.
No subs for DCU: Olsen stuck with his starters for all 90 exhausting minutes, the first time he has done that this year. Three times this season he used one sub. In the dying moments, Donovan Pines was summoned from the warmup area for possible entry but remained on the sideline.
Of the team effort, Olsen said: “Bodies were flying everywhere throughout the night. Just a lot of little plays that made the difference.”
On the road: Four of United’s next five matches — and five of the next seven — are away, starting Saturday at Vancouver, the last-place team in the Western Conference.
As D.C. defender Steve Birnbaum went out of his way after the LA match to point out, the Galaxy flew in and out of Washington on a charter while United will fly commercial to Seattle on Thursday and connect to British Columbia.
The team will then travel all day Sunday ahead of Wednesday’s visit by the New York Red Bulls to Buzzard Point.
Other D.C. trips during this stretch are to Philadelphia, Montreal, Portland and New Jersey.
United is a respectable 4-4-4 on the road.
Rare feat: Sunday’s victory was United’s second against teams currently in the top 10 in the Supporters’ Shield race. The only other one came on opening night against Atlanta. Otherwise, D.C. is 0-5-2 with a 2-15 goal differential against Los Angeles FC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Minnesota, San Jose and New York City FC.
Selling out: The crowd of 20,006 was the second sellout of the season; the other was for LAFC’s visit in April. For that first sellout, however, the figure was 20,600. In both cases, United sold many standing-room-only tickets.
The reason for the larger number in the first game was a discrepancy in the actual number of permanent seats in the stadium. When the venue opened last year, the figure was unofficially 19,400, with room for more than 20,000 visitors overall. Now, the number of seats is believed to be 19,200, with capacity for about 20,000.
United is averaging 17,581 this season, which, based on the 19,200 figure, is 92 percent of seating capacity.
Quotable Olsen: After struggling much of the summer, “That was a moment game where we needed to make some type of shift. I think we have done that, but now it’s important to keep moving forward.”
Quotable Olsen II: Speaking about gritty starters Quincy Amarikwa and Felipe Martins, the coach said they brought “a little bit of moxie, a little of that villain sometimes you need in your group.”