Austin FC is set to conclude a busy week of three matches in seven days this Saturday afternoon when it hosts Real Salt Lake at Q2 Stadium. Following Sunday’s home victory over the LA Galaxy and Wednesday’s away defeat at the hands of the Colorado Rapids, ATXFC will look to enter the upcoming two-week international break on a high note with a positive result against another Rocky Mountain foe.
Real Salt Lake is making its first-ever visit to Austin this weekend, with the sides having met once before this season on Aug. 14 in Sandy, Utah. RSL emerged with three points that day at Rio Tinto Stadium thanks to a first-half goal from U.S. international forward Bobby Wood, but the Verde & Black are planning on flipping the script this time around.
Austin FC Outlook
Austin was on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline against Colorado on Wednesday night, but the margin of defeat belies the quality of performance the team put in for much of the first half. Head Coach Josh Wolff rotated the squad as a result of recent fixture congestion, making seven changes to the Starting XI which beat the Galaxy at the weekend.
Despite the lack of previous playing time together for those on the pitch, the team remained compact and were perhaps unlucky to receive neither a penalty kick nor see Colorado reduced to 10 men midway through the half.
“We knew we were going to weather the storm in the first 10, 15 minutes, they’re at home, and we did a good job,” said Austin FC’s Jared Stroud after the match. “As we kind of figured out our press and felt stable, going right up until halftime, I felt pretty confident. They weren’t really breaking us down in the second part of the first half, and we were playing well, so we’re going to take those positives.”
Rapids goals immediately before and after halftime changed the complexion of the game, yet after giving many of its players some well-deserved rest on Wednesday, ATXFC should reap the rewards of a refreshed squad on Saturday.
Moussa Djitté, Sebastián Driussi, Diego Fagundez, Žan Kolmanič and Brad Stuver all logged a lot of minutes in recent weeks and got the night off against the Rapids. With two weeks between Saturday’s tilt versus RSL and the Verde & Black’s next fixture on Oct. 16, expect Austin to go all out in pursuit of a win.
Real Salt Lake Outlook
Real Salt Lake had a major wrench thrown in its 2021 season when former Head Coach Freddy Juarez suddenly announced he was leaving the club on August 27. Since then though, the team has not noticeably suffered, winning 4 of its 7 games under interim boss Pablo Mastroeni.
RSL is in the thick of the MLS Western Conference playoff race. The team sits in fifth place, five points above eighth-place Vancouver and the cutline but having played one more game than Whitecaps FC. That means points are at a premium down the seven-game homestretch.
So far this season, RSL’s calling card has been its attack. Its 44 goals scored are tied for fifth-most in MLS, with Damir Kreilach leading the way on 12 goals and six assists. Aaron Herrera has also been a creative force for the club, tallying nine assists for a squad which has not been shut out in its last 11 matches.
After suffering a lopsided 6-1 defeat to the Portland Timbers last weekend, Salt Lake bounced back by beating the LA Galaxy 2-1 on Wednesday night, as Kreilach registered a goal and an assist. ATXFC will certainly need to focus on containing him and Herrera, but can take confidence from RSL’s poor run of form on the road: Saturday’s visitors to Q2 Stadium have won only one of their last nine away matches.
Probable Real Salt Lake Lineup
(3-4-1-2, R-L) - GK: David Ochoa; Justen Glad, Erik Holt, Toni Datković; Aaron Herrera, Pablo Ruiz, Nick Besler, Donny Toia; Albert Rusnák; Anderson Julio, Damir Kreilach