The scene was near-perfect and one that could not be much better than anyone ever imagined. The opening of D.C. United’s new stadium, Audi Field, was a huge hit. The timing of having the World Cup Final looming along with the debut of international star Wayne Rooney mixed in, and it was a dream night for any world football fan in the nation’s capital.
Yamil Asad then ignited the crowd that may have been spent from all the pre-game festivities, as he christened the new stadium with the first-ever goal with a curler that got past Vancouver’s goalkeeper Brian Rowe in the 27th minute.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 15, 2018
Paul Arriola then turned the second half into his night was two goals, including one off an assist from Rooney as United downed the Whitecaps 3-1 for a huge win, its first in Audi Field.
Of course, the night belonged to Rooney for obvious reasons. He was the main draw. Fans were chanting “we want Rooney” and while he was not part of the starting XI, he made an impact on the match playing in 32 minutes.
⏱️ 32 Minutes
🎯 4 Shots
🅰️ 1 Assist
👟 31 Passes
✅ 91% Pass accuracy
Solid start. ⚫️🔴 pic.twitter.com/O4ui7xyHHU
— MLSGB (@MLSGB_) July 15, 2018
“This guy is unbelievable,” Arriola said after the game about Rooney, per Steven Streff of Black and Red United. “His presence on the field or off the field makes a big difference. “We treat him like another guy, and that’s how he wants to be treated.”
It was an unforgettable night for the 20,504 fans in attendance. One that Washington, D.C. can be proud of, and one that shines the light on a sport and league that has struggled to become popular among American fans. Head coach Ben Olsen called it one of the “great nights” in D.C. United history.”
And he is not far off the mark. This is an organization with four MLS Cups with a rich tradition among the league. D.C. has been one of the better long-term established franchises in MLS, and Saturday’s grand opening of Audi Field adds to that. With the attraction of Rooney and the rejuvenated energy maybe United can climb out the cellar of the Eastern Conference table.
It took 22 years but D.C. United finally has a stadium that is truly theirs. Saturday night’s eventful debut made it all worth the wait. With interest in soccer heightened coming off the one of the most interesting World Cups in recent years, the exciting mix of Audi Field and Rooney gives a new level of eyes on D.C. United and it will be up to the club to mainstay them eyes and surge back to the front of the line in MLS and soccer in America for that matter.