The final week of Austin FC’s inaugural Major League Soccer season will see the Verde & Black play their last two matches of 2021. The first of those on Wednesday night closes out the Club’s home schedule as Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City visit Q2 Stadium.
The two sides have met twice previously this season, on both occasions at SKC’s Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting scored a pair of late goals to earn a 2-1 victory on May 9, but Austin fought to a 1-1 draw on June 12, becoming 1 of only 7 MLS teams to record an away result against Kansas City this season.
Austin FC Outlook
While Austin FC won’t reach the MLS postseason in its inaugural campaign, Wednesday night’s match is a chance to thank the Club’s supporters one final time in person, who have stayed behind the team all season and created a fantastic match day atmosphere at Q2 Stadium.
After hundreds of fans made the trip north to see ATXFC take on FC Dallas last Saturday, Head Coach Josh Wolff made it a point to express his gratitude.
“We appreciate the fans coming out again, they’ve been tremendous all year,” said Wolff. “Once again on the road, they were awesome.”
The match against SKC also offers the opportunity to continue building consistency at home, which the Verde & Black have begun to do in the latter part of the season. The Club has won 3 of its last 4 matches at Q2 Stadium, and will look to finish strong and carry that momentum into the 2022 season.
Some key figures at Austin FC have significant ties to soccer in Kansas City. During their playing careers, Wolff and Assistant Coach Davy Arnaud each spent multiple seasons with the franchise, and defender Matt Besler made nearly 300 appearances across 11 years in a Sporting shirt.
Midfielder Diego Fagundez, who scored a fantastic goal from outside the penalty area against Dallas on Saturday, figures to again be important for the Verde & Black this week. With two more assists in the final two games of the season, Fagundez would become the second-youngest player in MLS history to reach 50 goals and 50 assists.
Sporting Kansas City Outlook
Sporting KC enters Wednesday’s contest neck-and-neck with Seattle Sounders FC and the Colorado Rapids for the top spot in the Western Conference, and crucially, a first round bye in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. SKC occupies first place currently, but is level on points with Seattle and Colorado and has a goal difference only one goal better than the Sounders with two matches remaining for each club.
Kansas City fell 2-1 to Minnesota United FC on Sunday afternoon, but still finds itself in a solid run of form ahead of its first-ever trip to Austin. SKC has won 6 of its last 9 matches, and no opponent has held the team scoreless during that stretch, largely thanks to the incredible play of Johnny Russell. One of the hottest players in MLS at the moment, Russell has 10 goals and three assists in his last nine games.
Just as Austin’s contingent has ties to Kansas City, a member of the SKC squad has past ties to the Texas capitol. Forward Khiry Shelton attended Vista Ridge High School in nearby Cedar Park, Texas and previously played for the Austin Aztex.
If ATXFC is to spoil Shelton’s homecoming, it will need rein in the rampant Russell on Wednesday night.
Probable Sporting Kansas City Lineup
(4-3-3, R-L) - GK: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Andreu Fontàs, Luis Martins; Rémi Walter, Ilie Sánchez, Roger Espinoza; Johnny Russell, Gadi Kinda, Khiry Shelton