Saturday afternoon, D.C. United invited RMNB to their sold-out home game against Los Angeles FC — the top team in the Western Conference. With the Capitals having already clinched their playoff seeding in the Metropolitan Division earlier in the week, I decided to take the day off from covering the Capitals to enjoy a sunny afternoon at the new Audi Field.
The game marked the first professional soccer game I’ve ever attended despite United playing its first game in 1996.
I honestly had no idea what to expect, but by the end of the day, one thing was for sure: I would definitely be coming back in the future.
The gameplay and the team’s new stadium were big reasons why.
#LAFC continued their red-hot start to the MLS season with a 4-0 win in the nation's capital, while Wayne Rooney just saw red.
All the highlights in our 90' in 90" ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/U1J7F5VBzf
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) April 6, 2019
First, let’s talk about Audi Field. Tucked behind Nationals Park in Southwest D.C., the new stadium, which first opened its doors in July 2018, is stunning and features views of the Capitol and Washington Monument. Because of Audi Field’s sleek build, fans sit right on top of the action. There’s no bad seat in the house. During the first half, I almost got hit in the head by a deflected ball. Instead, this adorable kid caught it.
The energy at the game was electric and a big part of that was the fans. Just like hockey fans, soccer fans are extremely passionate about the sport. D.C. United’s supporter clubs, La Barra Brava, Screaming Eagles, and District Ultras, all sit on one side of the stadium with their drums and waving flags. I once went to a Capitals game with La Barra Brava in 2006 when they invaded Capital One Arena. It was one of the wildest hockey experiences of my life.
The supporters’ groups stay singing and chanting nearly the entire 90 minutes. By the end of the game, I knew some of the chants too.
And then there’s Wayne Rooney, one of the most famous soccer players in the world. Rooney’s signing with D.C. United last season was a game-changer. Rooney won his way into the hearts of supporters after lifting the team into the playoffs with his skill and relentlessness.
In recent weeks, Rooney’s scored a hat trick.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 17, 2019
He also dazzled with this free kick into the net from an impossible angle.
How has Wayne Rooney scored a free-kick from there?! 🎯
WHAT. A. GOAL! 😲 pic.twitter.com/5SwXYZqLpx
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) April 1, 2019
The dude’s a legend.
When I first arrived with Cara, a D.C. United representative presented both of us with gift bags that included hats, scarfs, and number 9 Wayne Rooney jerseys, which was so very, very kind of them. We were also given credentials (and pink photo pinnies which fit Cara’s entire torso and hulky me down only to my rib cage) and took the field pre-game to snap pregame warmups.
As we stood along the sidelines, D.C. United players did drills and I watched slack-jawed as Rooney practiced 20 yards in front of us. He probably looked at me and was like, why is that large man over there wearing one of those photo pinnies as a crop top.
After warmups concluded, we checked out our field-side seats for the game that included an all-access pass to the Heineken MVP Club.
The Heineken MVP Club features all-you-can-eat food and drink from menus curated weekly by Chef José Andrés. I grabbed a French dip sandwich and tater tots. I also had my first Dos Equis and Heineken.
During the game, Cara and I explored the stadium and checked out the Heineken Rooftop Patio, which offered incredible views of D.C. and a great sky view of the game while drinking with your friends. The patio had a relaxed, party-like atmosphere, kind of like a Saturday night in Downtown Frederick during the summer.
If you’re looking to get out of the sun and find a place to grab a drink and get away from it all, check out the EagleBank Club. Imagine a really high-scale beer garden.
D.C. United ended up losing 4-0, suffering their first loss of the season. We were bummed at the result but stuck around to attend an after match “Happy Hour” at the Heineken Rooftop Patio with D.C. United legend Jaime Moreno, who played with the team from 1996 to 2010 and now coaches in the team’s youth academy. Moreno mingled and took photos with fans. Drink prices had been slashed to reflect “happy hour” pricing ($5 for a 16oz beer).
Once that ended, I made sure to buy my two-year-old son Ethan a tiny soccer ball as a souvenir at the Fanatics Official Club Shop. (He loves kicking all my street hockey balls towards storm drains.)
As day turned to night, we left the stadium after five amazing hours at Audi Field. The game and the atmosphere are a lot of fun, and I can see myself bringing Ethan out to a game at Audi Field when he’s a little older.
The best part is that D.C. United have been really supportive of the Capitals community. On Tuesday, the team honored Tom Wilson, Andre Burakovsky, and Christian Djoos at D.C. United’s game against the Montreal Impact.
Earlier in the season, Wayne Rooney attended a Capitals game with his sons and met Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov in the locker room. D.C. United midfielder Russell Canouse and forward Paul Arriola also checked out a game too. Arriola also serves as a forward for the US Men’s National Team.
Both D.C. United and the Washington Capitals have a lot in common too. They’re one of the best teams in their respective leagues. They have one of the world’s most famous players on their rosters. And they also play at top-notch venues with energetic crowds you have to experience in person.
This summer, consider taking your family to Audi Field for a game. If you love the atmosphere at Capital One, you may just find your summer home in Audi Field. The D.C. United deserves your support and the experience at their new stadium is something you have to try out.
Photos: Cara Bahniuk
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