Off the back of an epic, emotional win over Real Salt Lake in Round One of the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs, Austin FC turns its attention to in-state rivals FC Dallas in the Western Conference Semifinals this Sunday at Q2 Stadium (kickoff at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN and ESPN Deportes).
Though Austin lifted Copa Tejas as the regular season’s top team from the Lone Star State, the teams tied both previous meetings this year, and the slate is wiped clean for this win-or-go-home matchup.
Austin FC Outlook
What a playoff debut it was for Austin FC last Sunday. Head Coach Josh Wolff’s side found itself trailing 2-0 after 15 minutes at Q2 Stadium, but as it has done so often this season, rallied in dramatic fashion. A last-gasp, 94th-minute equalizer from MLS MVP finalist Sebastián Driussi kept the Verde & Black alive before Brad Stuver heroically saved two penalties in a shootout, helping send Austin to the next round.
It was only the third time in the last decade that a team has advanced in an MLS Cup Playoffs match in which it trailed by two or more goals, and the result made Austin the first team in MLS history to win four matches in a single season in which it trailed by multiple goals.
That dogged perseverance has come to define Austin’s season, and will be needed again against Dallas. In fact, when the two teams met in Austin earlier in 2022, the visitors raced out to a two-goal lead before the Verde & Black staged a comeback with goals from Driussi and Danny Hoesen.
The prize for Sunday night's winner is a trip west to face top-seeded Los Angeles FC in the Western Conference Final on October 30.
FC Dallas Outlook
Like Austin, Dallas advanced through the first round by a narrow margin. FCD battled to a 1-1 draw with Minnesota United FC at Toyota Stadium, and a panenka from Alan Velasco proved the difference in the 5-4 penalty shootout.
Dallas won 3 of its final 5 regular season matches to enter the playoffs, but its road form has not been quite as strong, with one win in its last six away from home. Jesus Ferreira (18 goals), Paul Arriola (10 goals), and Velasco (six goals) pace the team’s attack, while veteran center back Matt Hedges and goalkeeper Maarten Paes anchor a strong defense that allowed the fewest goals in the Western Conference (37) during the regular season.
Dallas Head Coach Nico Estevez and Josh Wolff once worked together as assistants under now-U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. The fact that the pair came from the same coaching tree - and that both their teams prefer to possess the ball - often leads to entertaining matchups between their squads.
Probable FC Dallas Lineup
(4-3-3, R-L) - GK: Maarten Paes; Ema Twumasi, Matt Hedges, Jose Martinez, Marco Farfan; Sebastian Lletget, Facundo Quignon, Paxton Pomykal; Paul Arriola, Jesus Ferreira, Alan Velasco