Once July 14 hit, the Black-and-Red knew they would need to do everything possible to make the most of their extended second-half homestand. In the basement of the Eastern Conference and with a brand-new stadium opening, United quickly had to settle in to their new digs and build a home-field advantage that would help them climb the table. Three months later, United have won nine and drawn one of their matches at Audi Field, picking up 28 points and moving just two points outside of the Eastern Conference playoffs. With three regular season matches remaining at their fortress, the Black-and-Red look to continue their home cooking, as nine points in their final regular season week in D.C. would secure United's spot in the postseason.
"Since the stadium opened, it's been about making sure that we protect Audi Field," head coach Ben Olsen said. "We want to make it a really tough place to play for opponents, and, more times than not, get three points."
While everyone assumed United would have a more positive run of results once they moved into their new home, the Black-and-Red have been dominant at Audi Field since debuting the stadium. Along with their nine wins, United have outscored opponents 29-14, and blanked the New England Revolution and Montreal Impact. Wayne Rooney has starred at Audi Field, Luciano Acosta has punished nearly every opponent that has come to town, and Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse, and Steven Birnbaum are playing arguably their strongest soccer of the past two years since opening the stadium.
"To see this group in the form they're in and to be in the conversation for playoffs, it's a good feeling," Olsen said. "We knew we were going to struggle a bit at the start but we had an opportunity to get some wins at home and make progress."
United have experienced a boost in quality and production at Audi Field, in part due to increased team performance, but also with the help of the rowdy home crowd. The Black-and-Red faithful have shown up night after night and truly made a difference for the team, staying loud and energized to help United sustain their momentum when they're up, or to help boost the team when they're down.
“Each week that goes by, we create memories in this building and the fans start to take over," Olsen said. "I think it’s a special place already in a short amount of time. Part of that is because we’re winning, scoring goals and playing some entertaining soccer. It’s been a fun ride and we want to continue and keep pushing.”
"The atmosphere is unbelievable," goalkeeper Bill Hamid added. "The fan base is bringing it every game."
United's run of good form at Audi Field will mean nothing, though, if they can't continue it through their final three regular season matches at home. The team and the supporters must unite three more times to protect Audi Field and push the Black-and-Red into the postseason.
Dallas come to town this Saturday, followed by Toronto on Wednesday and New York City FC next Sunday, giving United a three-match week loaded with tough opponents to close out October. With a playoff berth on the line, the players and the fans prepare to show up, give their all, and show the rest of the league why Audi Field is already one of the toughest venues to visit.