It’s finally time.
As D.C. United welcome the Vancouver Whitecaps to the Capital for Saturday's match, the District celebrates the grand opening of Audi Field and a new era for the Black-and-Red.
The opening of Audi Field signals a new chapter for the most decorated club in Major League Soccer history, with league-original D.C. United finally having their own home in the heart of the District. The 20,000-seat stadium becomes United’s home fortress with July 14's inaugural match, and will also play host to a variety of other sporting events and concerts in the future.
The debut of Audi Field feels like the start of a new season for United, but the Black-and-Red have endured a grueling road schedule spanning from March through June while the stadium received its final touches. The team played two “home” matches in MLS competition and in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at alternate locations in the area, but this weekend's inaugural match gives United their first true home environment of 2018.
In their 1996 RFK Stadium opener, United dropped their first match 2-1 against the LA Galaxy. Now, more than 22 years later, the Black-and-Red look to christen their new stadium in style by capping off a historic night with a victory.
While emotions and adrenaline will run high for all of United during tonight’s match, two of D.C.’s key players will also prepare to face off against their former club. Striker Darren Mattocks and goalkeeper David Ousted both began their MLS careers with the Vancouver Whitecaps, and now the men meet their old team in one of the biggest nights in club history for their new team.
Mattocks, a welcome addition to the D.C. lineup given his propensity for goal scoring, broke into the league in 2012 with the Whitecaps by scoring seven goals in his rookie campaign and earning the club’s golden boot award that year. During his four years in Canada, the Jamaican scored 19 goals in 93 MLS matches. Since joining the Black-and-Red ahead of the 2018 campaign, Mattocks has boosted United’s attack, scoring eight times in 13 appearances to break his season-high in goals that he set during his rookie year in Vancouver.
David Ousted, who was acquired by D.C. United via trade from Vancouver in January 2018, has also become a mainstay in the Black-and-Red lineup. Ousted, a 2015 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year finalist, began his career with the Whitecaps in 2013 and developed into one of the league’s most reliable netminders. The Dane earned 55 wins in five years in Vancouver, and stands alone as the winningest goalkeeper in the club’s history. Ousted has continued to show his steadfastness and command over the back line since joining D.C., and will look to earn the first-ever shutout at Audi Field when the sides take the pitch Saturday.
Standing in the way of an inaugural match win for the home side are the Vancouver Whitecaps, who have remained in the middle of the Western Conference pack throughout the first half of the season. To come away with a win on their new home turf, Ousted and the United defense will be tasked with stopping the Vancouver attack’s duo of young talent and veteran experience. Seventeen-year-old Alphonso Davies (8 assists, 2 goals), and veteran forward Kei Kamara (8 goals, 3 assists) have been the primary playmakers for Vancouver, with Davies consistently racking up assists thanks to his vision in the final third, and Kamara upholding his streak as one of the league’s top finishers.
Despite the intensified emotion and fervor underlying Saturday's match, the task remains the same—secure a win and three additional points in the standings. And with 15 matches to play and 45 points still up for grabs during the Audi Field inaugural season, a victory this weekend would be the perfect start for the Black-and-Red’s extended homestand and the club’s next chapter.