Maryland SoccerPlex to Host DC United’s 2018 Home Opener on Saturday
The Maryland SoccerPlex announced it will host the DC United’s opener this Saturday, March 17 at 1:30 pm start time. United is playing its first two home games of the 2018 season at neutral sites as the team makes final preparations for the opening of Audi Field its new home.
DC United will play Houston Dynamo on Saturday, as they look for their first win of the young 2018 season. DC opened the season with a 1-1 draw against Orlando on March 3 and suffered a 3-1 loss at Atlanta on Sunday, March 11.
Houston comes to Boyds with a 1-1 record with a 4-0 win over Atlanta and a 2-1 loss to Vancouver last Saturday. This will be the Dynamo’s first road game of the season.
Saturday’s game at the SoccerPlex will be one of just two Washington D.C. area games for DC United until their new stadium opens on July 14. The other area game will be played April 14 at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis as they host the Columbus Crew for 7:00 pm game.
The Maryland SoccerPlex has served as a host for many of DC United’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matches dating back to 2001. The most recent was a June 13, 2017, match against Christos F.C.
“We are thrilled to host the 2018 DC United home game,” said Maryland SoccerPlex Executive Director Trish Heffelfinger. “I am really excited about it because it is our first opportunity to do an MLS game.”
She said hosting the DC United Home Opener has been a learning experience for the SoccerPlex staff because hosting an event like an MLS game brings new challenges and opportunities. “We’ve done the DC United Open Cup games in the past. It has been fascinating to find out that an MLS game is a completely different operation,” said Heffelfinger. “We are learning a lot because of it. We have been meeting with MLS operations, and security people, as well as DC United folks, and learning that they do things in a way that we have not done in the past.”
She said one of the challenges was the expanded television coverage for the game, which brings more cameras and equipment to the Plex than the NWSL games have required in the past.
“They have cameras at the 18s (the top of the goal box) with scissor lifts located up on the concourse,” she said. “We need to make sure we have the proper security and crowd management. They have a security protocol which is very different from ours, and we’ve learned a lot from them. There will be more park police here than we’ve had in the past.
Other challenges required making accommodations for the game officials, including a video review system and a portable locker room for the referees. “Our locker rooms for the referees are not up to the MLS standards, so they’ve had to bring in a trailer with a locker room for the refs which will be on the north pad site complete with showers for the refs for Saturday’s game,” said Heffelfinger. “MLS has also implemented video review of offsides calls which result in goals, so we’ve had to make sure that there was the capability to do that and a space for the video review official.”
She said that Saturday’s game at the Maryland SoccerPlex will be a very different experience for both MLS fans and players used to playing in larger venues. “I think what the fans really like that is SoccerPlex is very different from the big stadium atmosphere. It is a small stadium environment. They can actually see the players and really hear them talking to each other on the field. And, the players can hear the fans. They are not far away. It is a cool experience and very different for the players.”
Heffelfinger said that the crowd will be quite different from the usual crowd which attends Washington Spirit games at the Plex on a regular basis. “The crowd will be very different from NWSL games. Spirit games are often families and young girls, or girls’ teams. The DC United crowds tend to be a lot of guys, and boys’ teams and supporter groups. It is a different atmosphere.” She added that the beer stand will be open and Famous Dave’s will be selling food and drinks for hungry soccer fans.
“It is good for the local soccer community, so we will do whatever is necessary to provide everyone from coaches, players, and fans with a first-class experience,” said Heffelfinger.
Tickets for the SoccerPlex match will start at $25 for the public and can be purchased by contacting a D.C. United season ticket member representative at 202-587-5000 or online at the Ticketmaster.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.