On one of the biggest nights in its short history, Austin FC produced one of its best performances, routing league leaders Los Angeles FC 4-1 last Friday night at Q2 Stadium. The result put the Verde & Black within touching distance of clinching the first MLS Cup Playoff berth in Club history, a feat which they can achieve Wednesday night against the Portland Timbers.
ATXFC will look to replicate its previous two meetings with Portland at Q2 Stadium, which it won 4-1 and 3-1 last season.
Austin FC Outlook
There are three scenarios in which Austin FC can guarantee itself a place in the 2022 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night:
- Austin wins vs. Portland AND Seattle loses or ties vs. Orlando
- Austin wins vs. Portland AND Nashville loses vs. Colorado
- Austin wins vs. Portland AND LA Galaxy loses vs. Toronto AND Real Salt Lake loses vs. Minnesota AND Nashville ties vs. Colorado
After a stretch of up-and-down results at home, Josh Wolff’s side seems to have found its footing once again at Q2 Stadium with back-to-back victories over Sporting KC and LAFC in recent weeks. Last Friday’s victory over a star-studded LAFC roster on national television was a statement performance for Austin, and one that signaled what a dangerous team ATXFC can be come playoff time. It also reinvigorated the Club’s challenge for the Supporters’ Shield, reducing the gap to first-place LAFC to six points with seven matches remaining.
It was a strong team outing from back to front. Maxi Urruti (two goals), Diego Fagundez (one goal, two assists), and Sebastián Driussi (one goal) put on a dazzling attacking display, Alex Ring and Dani Pereira controlled the midfield, and fullbacks Nick Lima and Jon Gallagher did well to limit opportunities for opposing wingers Gareth Bale and Carlos Vela. Center back Julio Cascante, along with Fagundez and Josh Wolff, earned spots in the MLS Team of the Week for their performances.
Austin has scored at least three goals in each of its last five matches at Q2 Stadium, and also reached that threshold in both its previous meetings with the Timbers at home.
Portland Timbers Outlook
Points are at a premium for Portland during the regular season’s homestretch, as the Timbers are one of a handful of teams hovering right around the playoff line. They’re one point below that line heading into Wednesday, and in need of a late-season push as Decision Day grows closer.
The Timbers snapped a five-match winless run last time out with a vital victory over rivals Seattle Sounders, coming back to win 2-1 thanks to goals from Dairon Asprilla and Sebastian Blanco. Those two have combined for 13 goals in 2022, and the team’s leading scorer Jaroslaw Niezgoda (nine goals) is another player Austin will need to keep an eye on.
At the other end of the field, the Verde & Black must navigate around Timbers left back Claudio Bravo, who leads MLS in successful tackles with 65.
Portland have not been quite as strong away from home as they have been at Providence Park, winning twice in 14 road matches. While they might not always win though, the Timbers are a tough team to beat, with a league-high 12 draws on the season.
Probable Portland Timbers Lineup
(4-4-1-1, R-L) - GK: Aljaz Ivacic; Jose Van Rankin, Bill Tuiloma, Dario Zuparic, Claudio Bravo; Yimmi Chara, Diego Chara, Eryk Williamson, Santiago Moreno; Sebastian Blanco; Jaroslaw Niezgoda