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Break Down: Five Big MLS Matches for United

This week, D.C. United released its complete 2019 schedule. This will be the first full season that the Black-and-Red will spend at Audi Field, and the team will hope to continue the dominant home form that rocketed them up the standings and into the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. Here is a breakdown of the five home matches to look forward to in the 2019 schedule:

1. Atlanta United on March 3rd: United will kickoff the 2019 season against the reigning MLS Cup champions at Audi Field. Last season, D.C. faced the Five Stripes three times, with all three matches finishing 3-1 in favor of the respective home team. The Black-and-Red visited Mercedes-Benz Stadium on March 11 and July 21; on both occasions, Atlanta's attacking talent was too much for the still-developing United backline. The final meeting between the two sides came on September 2, this time at United's new home. An explosive display from Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney pushed the Black-and-Red into a 3-1 lead, allowing the now-formidable United defense to lock down 2018 MLS MVP Josef Martínez and the Atlanta attack. In the next installment of this Eastern Conference matchup, United will look to start off the season strong and earn valuable, early-season points.

2. Montreal Impact on April 9th: United spent a majority of the second half of 2018 competing with the Montreal Impact for a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs. As the Black-and-Red climbed their way up the standings, Montreal continued to hold steady in the coveted 6th position in the Eastern Conference. The two teams' first meeting of the year took place on August 4 at Saputo Stadium in Montreal. United came back from conceding a discouraging early goal to grab a second half equalizer, securing a 1-1 draw and a valuable point on the road. However, the Black-and-Red knew they needed all three points when Montreal ventured south at the end of September. United won the September 29 meeting in emphatic fashion, breaking out for four second half goals in a 5-0 victory. Luciano Acosta led the attack, collecting three assists and a goal; Paul Arriola and Wayne Rooney joined Acosta on the scoresheet with two goals a piece. The Black-and-Red will look to repeat that dominance when the Impact come to town in 2019.

3. Columbus Crew on May 4th: This match in early May will be the second meeting between the two clubs in a 10-day period, and the first matchup in D.C. since the Crew defeated the Black-and-Red on penalty kicks in the Knockout Round of the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. United's heartbreaking loss in the 2018 playoffs will be a major motivator for a team looking to build on their first appearance in the postseason at Audi Field. This matchup between two of Major League Soccer's original teams will also mark the beginning of a busy May for the Black-and-Red. Over the course of the month, United will play six matches - three on the road and three in the friendly confines of Audi Field. Four of these matches are against Eastern Conference opponents, making maximum points during this stretch invaluable. A good start to this month will be critical, and payback against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs will be an added bonus.  

4. New York Red Bulls on August 21st: It’s always a can't-miss occasion when United's rivals come to town, and this match won't be any different. This will be the first MLS installment of the Atlantic Cup in 2019, and the only league meeting between D.C. and New York at Audi Field. Last season, United lost the first two matches against the Red Bulls 1-0, with both defeats leaving the Black-and-Red frustrated after failing to muster an attack able to break down the New York defense. In the final meeting of the year at Audi Field on Sep. 16, the United attack erupted for 3 goals. Three times, D.C. took the lead and three times, Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips struck back, stealing a point for the visitors. In 2019, United will look to keep the excitement high, but keep all three points at home.

5. FC Cincinnati on October 6th: United will welcome MLS-newcomers FC Cincinnati to Audi Field on the final matchday of the regular season. This will be the Black-and-Red's first meeting with Cincinnati in club history; Cincinnati enters MLS in 2019 after spending three seasons as a part of the United Soccer League (USL). In 2018, the Orange and Blue finished as USL Regular Season Champions, and after an ambitious offseason, they will be looking to make their mark as an expansion franchise. In this October matchup, the playoff implications could be huge. United will be looking to make an extended postseason run after an early exit in 2018, and this season finale could prove to be an important launching point into the MLS Cup Playoffs for the Black-and-Red.