Austin FC will play the first postseason match in Club history on Sunday, hosting Real Salt Lake at a sold-out Q2 Stadium in Round One of the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs. It’s win or go home from this point forward, with four victories separating Austin from being crowned champions of the league in just its second season.
Austin FC Outlook
Austin FC finished the regular season in second place in the MLS Western Conference, earning home-field advantage for Round One. The team finished 2022 with 25 more points than it did 2021, tying the league record for the biggest improvement for a second-year expansion club.
Fans will remember the team’s most recent meeting with RSL, a 3-0 win on Wednesday, September 14 in which Moussa Djitté scored Austin’s first-ever hat trick. That result clinched a playoff berth for the Verde & Black, but RSL will be hungry and capable of flipping the script this time around.
Led by MVP candidate Sebastián Driussi (22 goals) and Diego Fagundez (15 assists), Austin scored 65 goals in 2022, third-most in MLS. Playoff games tend to be cagey and feature fewer scoring opportunities, and whichever team takes its chances with more efficiency is likely to advance to the next round.
Real Salt Lake Outlook
RSL has been playing do-or-die games for the last few weeks, earning a 1-1 draw away to LA Galaxy and a 3-1 win over Portland Timbers on Decision Day to claw themselves above the playoff line.
Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s team found themselves as the seventh seed last year as well and turned out to be the Cinderella story of the 2021 playoffs, upsetting Seattle and Kansas City on their way to the Western Conference Final.
RSL allowed 45 goals this season, making them the fourth-stingiest defense in the West, but scored the fewest goals of any team to qualify for the playoffs (43). 28 percent of their goals came from headers - the highest percentage of any team in in MLS - meaning aerial duels will be a key area of defensive focus for the Verde & Black.
Probable Real Salt Lake Lineup
(4-4-2, R-L) - GK: Zac MacMath; Andrew Brody, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Bryan Oviedo; Maikel Chang, Braian Ojeda, Pablo Ruiz, Jefferson Savarino; Sergio Cordova, Rubio Rubin