Saturday is a big day for soccer in the nation’s capital.
Last place D.C. United (2-7-5, 11 points) play their inaugural game at their new, $400 million stadium, Audi Field. The club hopes to establish the latest soccer-specific facility in MLS as a pitch where it’s is incredibly hard for opponents to play. The first test will be the Vancouver Whitecaps (7-7-5, 26 points).
As if opening the new building isn’t enough, former Premier League star and 200-goal scorer (in both international and club play) Wayne Rooney will make his MLS debut. Rooney’s scoring prowess is good news for the team’s goals leader, Darren Mattocks, who has eight tallies on the season. Adding another scorer can only bode well for the struggling team.
Club co-owner and managing partner Jason Levien put it all in perspective at Monday’s grand opening and ribbon-cutting: “It’s difficult to overstate the magnitude of what today represents.”
No pressure, guys.
Opposing the glitziness of a new stadium and arrival of an international superstar, the Whitecaps will be focused solely on the job in front of them.
Kei Kamara, who faced Rooney in the Premier League during a stint with Middlesbrough in 2013-14, said, “It’s great for D.C., opening a beautiful stadium, and for us to be a part of that is going to be history. But it’s all about us. It’s not about Rooney and D.C.”
Vancouver is coming off a 3-2 win that saw Kamara score twice, snapping a two-match losing skid. D.C., which has played the fewest games this season in MLS, rallied to earn a draw on July 4 against the LA Galaxy, but wins have been tough to come by. In fact, its last victory in league play came on May 19.
The Whitecaps have a chance for three points on the road, but they will have to strive for a win without midfielder Cristian Techera, who will finish his three-game suspension for offensive language in a June 23 game. Goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic (left knee) and defender Kendall Waston (left groin strain) are listed as questionable.
While D.C. adds Rooney, its lineup will be without defenders Taylor Kemp (labrum surgery), Chris Odoi-Atsem (compartment release surgery), Nick DeLeon (knee) and Kofi Opare (knee) and midfielder Ulises Segura (knee). Midfielders Paul Arriola (hip flexor) and Russell Canouse (knee) and defenseman Joseph Mora (hamstring) are listed as probable. D.C. fans are likely hoping that shiny new stadium has a great training room.
—Field Level Media