D.C. United arrive at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., hoping the historic setting can provide a home field advantage following a tough stretch to open the season. Saturday's match—the first-ever Major League Soccer game in Annapolis—will be United’s final Home Away from Home match before opening Audi Field on July 14 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Though the Black-and-Red will have the home supporters on their side in Annapolis, Columbus Crew SC will provide a tough test for United after defeating them in their last matchup 3-1 on March 24 at MAPFRE Stadium.
In their March meeting, United came out of the gate flying and threatened the Columbus net early thanks to their high press. The Crew were able to strike first, but United quickly equalized through Yamil Asad’s second goal of the season, which earned the Argentine his first career MLS Goal of the Week award. Columbus responded with two goals of their own before the end of the first half, though, then bunkered down on defense for the remainder of the game to send the Black-and-Red back to the District empty handed.
Now, United are pushing for revenge, while Columbus enter Black-and-Red territory looking for their second win of the season over the fellow league originals. Through their first five matches of 2018, Columbus earned the second place spot in the Eastern Conference with a 3-1-1 record and the second best goal differential (+4) in the league. The Black-and-Red are still searching for their first win of the season after falling 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park in their last match on March 31.
While the odds may seem to be in Columbus’ favor for this weekend's match, the Crew will be facing a hungry United team who have not played since the end of March, allowing them plenty of time to rest, retool, and refine their team chemistry and strategy. Following the extensive period of preparation, the Black-and-Red take the pitch looking to spark a run of their own in a special venue built for big moments.
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium opened in 1959 and has hosted Naval Academy athletics for nearly 60 years. Built as a memorial to the Navy and Marine Corps, the stadium is lined with commemorations to the Navy and Marine Corps’ defining battles, as well as dedications to past Naval Academy graduating classes.
United hope to add to that history with an inspiring performance as the first Major League Soccer side to host a match at the venue. Saturday's game is also the biggest soccer match the stadium has seen since hosting first round matches during the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Maryland has already provided some magic for the Black-and-Red this season when United fought back to earn a 2-2 draw against the Houston Dynamo at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md., during their first Home Away from Home match. Luciano Acosta equalized in the 97th minute to secure a point for United and to score the latest regulation-time goal in club history.
This weekend, United will look for big performances from Acosta, Asad and Darren Mattocks to help propel them toward three points. Asad and Mattocks are the team’s leading scorers so far with two goals each, while Acosta remains the Black-and-Red’s creative linchpin, with one goal and one assist in three games started. After a big four-save performance in Kansas City in their last match, United will also rely on goalkeeper David Ousted for another solid showing in goal, as the Great Dane has turned away 13 shots, including four against Columbus, so far this season.
The Crew also arrive with reinforcements for this weekend with the return of midfielder Wil Trapp and starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Both players were missing from the gameday roster in the teams’ previous meeting as they were in North Carolina for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s friendly against Paraguay. The Crew will enjoy having two of their go-to players back for round two—Trapp typically captains the Crew and anchors the midfield from his holding position, while Steffen established himself as one of the league’s top keepers following a breakout season in 2017.
While the Crew matchup will be no easy feat for United, Ben Olsen’s squad knows a win in Annapolis could serve as an early-season turning point and major momentum changer. Saturday's three points become even more valuable than normal with United facing a schedule without another home match until the opening of Audi Field in July. If they can sink the Crew at Navy, the Black-and-Red can gain some crucial wind in their sails for the extended journey ahead.
Following Saturday's game, United return to the road to take on I-95 rivals the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday, April 28, continuing on their road trip to Audi Field. For more information on the Black-and-Red’s new state-of-the-art home and their inaugural Audi Field match, visit dcunited.com/tickets.