On July 14, 2018, D.C. United christened Audi Field with a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. After years of waiting for their own home in the District, the Black-and-Red faithful filled the new state-of-the-art stadium for the first time in hopes that the opening of Audi Field's doors could help the club enter a new era and return to their powerhouse ways. After a tense but exciting 26 minutes of action, United scored their first-ever goal in the new home, allowing the crowd to go wild. With the fans awakened, smoke billowing, flags waving, and chants echoing throughout the venue, it was officially the beginning of home field advantage at Audi Field.
Since that first game in July, United fans have ensured that Audi Field is a place where opponents fear playing. Even the best teams in the league struggled to get a win in the District’s new fortress thanks to the fans' impact. MLS Cup finalists Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers both left Audi Field empty-handed, with United defeating Atlanta 3-1 and the Timbers 4-1. The Black-and-Red also downed Eastern Conference semifinalists New York City FC 3-1 at home, and then-No. 1 Western Conference side FC Dallas 1-0 at home. During the Black-and-Red’s seven-game homestand at the end of the regular season, United gave up just one point.
The opening of Audi Field was critical to the team's midseason turnaround, and the fans successfully made the stadium one of the liveliest in the league, and one of the most daunting for visitors in the league. Ultimately, United's home field advantage momentum successfully launched the Black-and-Red into the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference and into the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, and while their run ended earlier than desired, the team still recognized the significance of their climb and the invaluable impact the supporters made.
“I can’t thank Washington, D.C., enough for supporting us, for getting behind us, and for pushing us and helping us get into the playoffs,” goalkeeper Bill Hamid said at the end of United’s season. “Without them, this run would have been impossible.”
In 2019, Audi Field and fan support could be an even greater factor in the Black-and-Red’s success. Next year will be United's first full season at their new home, allowing them to establish more of a rhythm, and the club will look to establish their dominance at home early on instead of being forced to make a late-season climb. Audi Field's inaugural season was unforgettable for all those involved, but the players, staff, and fans don’t want the 2018 season to simply be a great memory—they want it to be the foundation for a new era of soccer in the District, an era in which the team runs the table at home and the supporters create the best environment in all of Major League Soccer.
“What these guys did to set the right tone and foundation for Audi Field, and the next generation of D.C. United, I'm extremely proud of them for doing that,” head coach Ben Olsen said at the end of the season. “They’ve got this city interested again in soccer and our team, and I very much look forward to getting back here next year and working with this group, and building, and continuing to play this type of style with this type of team at Audi Field next year.”
Now, the countdown is on for the first full season at Audi Field, and the team and fans alike are eagerly awaiting their return to the Black-and-Red's fortress in the District. Reserve your seats for the 2019 season today, and help United continue building their home field advantage.