MLS play-offs: How Wayne Rooney can achieve glory with DC United
Watch DC United vs Columbus on Sky Sports Football at midnight
By Dan Long
Last Updated: 01/11/18 11:20pm
Wayne Rooney has steered DC United to an unlikely MLS play-off spot, but what route must they take to reach the MLS Cup final?
Rooney scored twice in a 3-1 win over New York City earlier this month to seal DC's place at the post-season stage and cap what has been a remarkable turnaround.
Prior to the 33-year-old's arrival at Audi Field in June, DC had lost seven of their opening 14 games and looked on course to replicate the 2017 season, where they finished bottom of the Eastern Conference.
But 12 goals and six assists from the former Manchester United and Everton striker helped seal a fourth-placed finish and a one-off, crunch knockout game against the Columbus Crew, live on Sky Sports.
Defeat would result in elimination from the competition but DC won their regular home fixture against Thursday's opponents and Rooney was in buoyant mood as he looked ahead to the key fixture.
MLS play-off knockout round fixtures
Results so far
FC Dallas 1-2 Portland Timbers
NYCFC 3-1 Philadelphia
Friday, November 2
D.C. United vs Columbus Crew (12am)
LAFC vs Real Salt Lake (2.30am)
"Obviously our form here (Audi Field) is great but we have to be confident in whoever we play, wherever we play, that we can win the game," he told DC's official website.
"We are in great form, whether it's a home or away we have to take that belief into that game and be ready."
Beat the Crew and Rooney's side will face Bradley Wright-Phillips' New York Red Bulls in a two-legged Conference semi-final on November 4 and 11.
Victory in that tie would set up an Eastern Conference final - again over two legs - against the winner of the other semi-final: Miguel Almiron's Atlanta or David Villa's New York City FC.
DC's potential route to the MLS Cup final
Knockout round: DC v Columbus Crew (Nov 1)
Eastern Conference semi-final: DC v New York Red Bulls (Nov 4 & 11)
Eastern Conference final: DC v Atlanta (Nov 25 & 29)
MLS Cup: DC v ? (Dec 8)
The aggregate victors from both Conferences then face a final MLS Cup showdown on December 8, with Sporting Kansas City, Seattle Sounders and Bob Bradley's LAFC among those sides hoping to prevail from the West.
DC might have made a slow start but coach Ben Olsen believes his side - with 10-goal Luciano Acosta also a danger alongside Rooney - can target the ultimate MLS prize.
"I think there's belief in that locker room that there's more to this team than just making the play-offs," Olsen said.
"I've been on teams where you make the play-offs and you hope you get a bounce or two and you can kind of squeak along. I think this team believes that we belong, or we're good enough to make a real run at this thing."
Watch DC United vs Columbus on Sky Sports Football from midnight on Thursday night (Friday morning), before LAFC vs Real Salt Lake