Austin FC came up just short in a 4-3 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday night to finish a stretch of three games in eight days, and with no midweek fixture this week, the squad got a bit of well-deserved rest. The Verde & Black are now set to return to action this Sunday night, closing out a three-game homestand by welcoming the LA Galaxy to Q2 Stadium.
The Galaxy prevailed 2-0 in the only previous meeting between the two clubs back on May 15 in California, with goals from Sebastian Lleget and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández settling the outcome that day. But a lot has changed in the four months since, and with both teams currently on extended winless runs, Sunday’s contest should see each side hungry to claim three points.
Austin FC Outlook
The results have not been where ATXFC players, coaches and fans want them to be recently, but there are still plenty of positive signs around the club, and chief among them is the team’s improvement in attack. An offense which was stagnant for long spells this season has come to life thanks to the introduction of two summer signings: Sebastián Driussi and Moussa Djitté.
In Austin’s first 17 games this year, the team scored 13 goals, an average of 0.76 per game. Since Driussi’s first start on August 14 though, the club has recorded 12 goals in eight matches for an average of 1.5 per game. Only seven teams in MLS are averaging more than 1.5 goals per game across the entire season, and 5 of those 7 teams are currently above the playoff line.
That bodes well for the future of this team, and fans got a first taste of what Austin’s attack might look like moving forward last Sunday when Djitté made his first MLS start alongside Driussi. The former played a role in the latter’s goal, forcing a save from San Jose goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski before Driussi cleaned up the rebound.
Though he didn’t register a goal or an assist in the 45 minutes he played on Saturday, Djitté had a major impact nonetheless, occupying the opposing center backs and freeing space for the team’s other attackers to operate. If the three goals scored by the Verde & Black while both Djitté and Driussi were on the field are anything to go by, Austin fans could be witnessing the start of a promising attacking unit.
In less exciting news for ATXFC, the team will be without midfielder and captain Alex Ring on Sunday, who will serve a one-game suspension after receiving a red card in last Saturday’s defeat to San Jose. Head Coach Josh Wolff could replace Ring with a like-for-like swap using one of the other defensive midfielders at his disposal, or switch up his tactical approach to cover the Finn’s absence.
LA GALAXY OUTLOOK
Los Angeles was one of the hottest teams out of the gate in MLS this season, winning 7 of its opening 10 games. The California club still sits in fourth place in the Western Conference thanks in large part to its early season success, but its recent form has it in danger of slipping out of the playoff positions.
LA is winless in its last six games, a stretch that has seen the gap between it and eighth place shrink to only five points. A big reason for the Galaxy’s change in fortune was the absence of star striker Chicharito, who scored 10 goals in the season’s opening months but subsequently missed significant time with a calf injury.
The prolific Mexican forward recently returned to the side, making two starts and one substitute appearance in the Galaxy’s last three games. He netted LA’s lone goal in its 1-1 draw with Houston Dynamo FC last week, bringing his season’s tally to 11 goals - tied for seventh-most in MLS.
Fans in both Los Angeles and Austin are sure to be anxiously refreshing Twitter in the buildup to Sunday’s game to see if Hernández will be among the starters or on the bench for Head Coach Greg Vanney’s team. Coming off a 3-0 away loss against Minnesota United FC last time out, the visitors to Q2 Stadium will be in desperate need of points to cement their grip on a postseason berth.
PROBABLE LA GALAXY LINEUP
(4-3-3, R-L) GK: Jonathan Klinsmann; Julian Araujo, Sega Coulibaly, Daniel Steres, Niko Hämäläinen; Jonathan dos Santos, Rayan Raveloson, Sebastian Lleget; Samuel Grandsir, Javier Hernández, Kévin Cabral