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All over the world, matches between rival soccer clubs – often dubbed “derbies” – have an extra edge to them for players, coaches, and fans alike. Saturday’s match between Austin FC and FC Dallas looks set to have that edge and then some, in front of what’s expected to be an electric atmosphere at Q2 Stadium.

ATXFC is two points above its north Texas neighbors in the Western Conference table, and the two teams each won their opening Copa Tejas games of the season against Houston Dynamo FC, meaning Saturday’s winner will take pole position in the race to claim the fan-created trophy awarded to the Texas club with the most points from intra-Texas matches.

For the Verde & Black, Saturday is also an opportunity to exact vengeance for a 5-3 defeat at the hands of FCD last season.

“We have a lot of unfinished business with FC Dallas. Last year they won Copa Tejas, they came into Q2 Stadium and we didn’t respond in the best way. They got the better of us here at home and that still sticks with a lot of us,” said Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver. “We have goals for each section of the season, and one of our season-long goals is to win Copa Tejas. That starts with beating Houston in Houston, and this is our second chance to get points in that little tournament.

“It’s going to be more than just a normal game, and for a lot us we still remember that feeling after the game at home [in 2021] and we never want to feel that way again. We want this year to be our year.”

The Austin FC that will take the pitch to face FC Dallas on Saturday is very different than the one which did so in 2021 – in terms of personnel and mentality. The team's results show clear improvement in the standings, where ATXFC has collected 27 points from 15 matches. But it’s perhaps the nature of the results which truly display the group’s growth.

Last weekend’s 1-0 away win over CF Montréal encapsulates that growth. Down to 10 men for the entire second half, Austin rallied rather than withered, and found the goal that earned a fourth road victory of the season and moved the Verde & Black above Dallas in the standings ahead of this weekend’s matchup. It was a gritty performance that showcased something any good team needs to have: the ability to grind out a result in the face of adversity.

“We’re back home after a good emotional win on the road, but more importantly we’re going against a direct rival and a direct opponent in our conference who’s a very good team,” said Austin FC Head Coach Josh Wolff, who was named to the MLS Team of the Week for a league-best third time this season on Tuesday. “We’ve got to put a lot into this. Our next five or six games are important, but this next game right now is hands down the most important and grabs all of our focus.”

Wolff’s squad still feels they have plenty to prove over that next stretch, and a positive result against Dallas would make a statement ahead of a tricky three-match road trip.

“We’re a different team than we were last year,” said Austin FC midfielder Diego Fagundez. “I think everybody needs to be ready and know as soon as you step on the field it’s going to be a battle, and the bigger team is going to win. We have to make sure that we keep Texas green and that we keep going.”