WASHINGTON – D.C. United were still five matches away from opening Audi Field – and had yet to sign superstar forward Wayne Rooney – when they made their first visit to Los Angeles Football Club’s Banc of California Stadium.
Following their only away win of the 2018 season at the San Jose Earthquakes, D.C. earned a precious point in a 1-1 draw via Darren Mattocks’ late equalizer on Memorial Day weekend. They also left LA with plenty of respect for the league’s newest stage.
“It’s a long time ago,” said coach Ben Olsen. “But I do remember it being a great venue and an unbelievable atmosphere, and thinking what a great addition that club is, and has been, to the league.”
Now approaching LAFC’s maiden visit to D.C.’s Audi Field this Saturday (3 pm ET | FOX; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada) in a fixture between conference leaders, United are eager to show their digs can match any in the league in making it difficult for opponents, even one of LAFC’s caliber.
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“As tough as it was for us to go there and scramble a point away last year, that’s our goal for them this year,” said D.C. midfielder Paul Arriola. “Come and really get a taste of what we’re like at home and the atmosphere to show that they’re not the only team in the league (with) a great atmosphere.”
United are 14-2-2 in all competitions on Potomac Avenue since opening their ground on July 14, 2018, and are unbeaten in their last 15 matches in all competitions. In the club’s sole playoff game during that stretch, they drew Columbus Crew SC, 2-2, in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs before exiting on penalties.
While Arriola, himself a Southern California native, believes both stadiums are hallowed ground on the MLS circuit, they’re not necessarily the same.
“They have a special place, we have a special place,” Arriola said. “The fans are amazing for both clubs. But different in their own kind of [way]. We’re kind of building our own history now with Audi, and LAFC they’re building their whole history. And that’s an interesting thing.”
While the buzz surrounding Audi Field during last year’s playoff run was undeniable, Arriola has almost been more impressed with the crowd's performance in less-than-ideal conditions. D.C.’s 2-0 win over Atlanta United FC to open the 2019 season was played in bitterly cold rain.
“I expect it to be packed, especially the way that we’ve started the season," Arriola said of Saturday. “And the way that they’ve shown up for the home opener against Atlanta when its 30 degrees and no one can feel their hands and no one can feel their lips.”
Said Olsen: “I think it’s a great early matchup. I expect that place to be bumping and to give us the support that we need to get something out of this game.”