The Verde & Black are back in Major League Soccer action this Saturday night, as Austin FC welcomes FC Cincinnati to Q2 Stadium to open its 2022 season. The two clubs did not meet in ATXFC’s inaugural campaign, and as both fell short of the playoffs in 2021, the aim for each side will be to kick off this year with a victory.
Austin FC Outlook
Austin FC’s 2021 season had its share of highs and lows. There were plenty of great moments at Q2 Stadium, but obstacles too - most notably, bad luck with injuries, and having to start the season with a run of eight straight games on the road.
The latter of those is no longer a concern, and at the moment, neither is the former, as the Verde & Black emerge from preseason with no long-term injury concerns among the squad. In 2022, the target is simple: qualify for the playoffs. To do so, ATXFC needs to finish in seventh place or higher in the MLS Western Conference standings, and a host of offseason arrivals is prepared to help the team do so.
In all, eight new faces joined Austin FC this offseason: forward Maxi Urruti, midfielders Felipe Martins, Jhojan Valencia, and Ethan Finlay, defenders Ruben Gabrielsen, Kipp Keller, and Charlie Asensio, and goalkeeper Damian Las. The group brings a good mix of youth and experience to Head Coach Josh Wolff’s side - Urruti, Martins, and Finlay boast a combined 766 career MLS appearances between them - and now also has the benefit of joining a squad which has been together for a full season.
After a preseason highlighted by a 4-0 thrashing of Houston Dynamo FC and a 1-1 draw against reigning Liga MX champions Atlas FC, the Verde & Black will look to begin 2022 at home as they ended 2021: with a win. Austin’s last MLS match at Q2 Stadium was a 3-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City in November, part of a run which saw ATXFC win 4 of its last 5 matches at home.
FC Cincinnati Outlook
Cincinnati was MLS’ worst team in 2021, and will be hungry to put that right in 2022. The offseason arrivals of goalkeeper Alec Kann, veteran Raymon Gaddis, and forward Dominique Badji are all upgrades to the squad, which also features U.S. international Geoff Cameron, Costa Rican international Ronald Matarrita, and dynamic playmaker Luciano Acosta.
Acosta, an attacking midfielder from Argentina, was a bright spot in a tough season for FCC last year. He registered seven goals and 10 assists in 30 starts, and covered a lot of ground in midfield each match. Stopping Acosta is sure to be a key area of focus for Austin FC on Saturday night.
While Cincinnati’s 2021 win total of four was the lowest in MLS, of note is that 3 of those 4 wins came away from home. Cincy’s 74 goals allowed was the worst in MLS by some distance though, a weakness the Verde & Black will be looking to exploit. Kann, formerly one of the league’s top backup goalkeepers with Atlanta, was brought in to provide some stability between the posts, and his first test in his new colors comes against the Verde & Black.
Probable FC Cincinnati Lineup
(4-1-2-1-2, R-L) - GK: Alec Kann; Alvas Powell, Geoff Cameron, Gustavo Vallecilla, Ronald Matarrita; Haris Medunjanin; Allan Cruz, Yuya Kubo; Luciano Acosta; Brandon Vazquez, Brenner Souza da Silva