D.C. United wasted no time turning Audi Field into a fortress, going 12-2-1 at its new home last season, then opening 2019 with a pair of wins by a combined seven-goal margin.
The club’s past three matches at Buzzard Point, however, have been far less fruitful: two losses, one draw and zero goals scored.
“I don’t think that we feel right now that we’re in the right form [at home], the way that we were last year and the beginning of this year,” midfielder Paul Arriola said.
Forward Wayne Rooney added: “We need to get back to being hard to beat, and resilient.”
Sitting in a three-way tie atop the Eastern Conference, United (5-3-2) will look to reverse that skid on its upcoming two-game homestand, which kicks off with a visit from the Columbus Crew (4-5-1) on Saturday (8 p.m., FloSports).
“Of course we want to win these games,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “We’re at home. We want to reward our fans.”
United’s struggles at Audi Field are all the more perplexing considering the team’s stellar form on the road, where D.C. has compiled a 3-1-1 record this season after notching just one away win all of last year.
United grew accustomed to winning the possession battle at Audi Field, paving the way for the attacking duo of Rooney and Luciano Acosta to carve out scoring chances. But D.C. was outplayed in recent home losses to Los Angeles FC and New York City FC. The team’s limited time on the ball has stifled 2018 all-league selections Acosta and Rooney, who have yet to directly combine on a goal this season after doing so seven times in 20 matches together last year.
“They obviously have to push and get better,” Olsen said. “We also have to support them around the field and have better performances, so that we don’t rely too heavily on them.”
Absences also have contributed to United’s home troubles. Injuries to left backs Joseph Mora (jaw) and Chris McCann (hamstring) have forced Olsen to juggle his lineup, at times shifting from his usual 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-4-2-1 alignment. Midfielder Russell Canouse (knee) has been sidelined during the recent home skid, and defender Leonardo Jara exited a 1-0 loss to Minnesota on Sunday with a groin injury.
“You miss one or two [players], sometimes you’re just a little bit disjointed out there, and it’s not clicking as well as you want it to be,” Olsen said. “That’s part of a season, and we’re going through that right now. The way to fix that, and get away with being disjointed, is work and fight.”