After playing its last two matches on the road, Austin FC returns to home comforts on Wednesday night for the first of two matches in quick succession at Q2 Stadium. The Verde & Black will host Real Salt Lake, whom they defeated 2-1 in their only previous encounter in Austin.
Austin FC Outlook
Austin FC is on the brink of qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in its short history, and the math is simple: a win or a draw vs. RSL on Wednesday will ensure postseason soccer for Head Coach Josh Wolff’s side.
The team’s offensive production at home this season has been impressive - in 14 matches at Q2 Stadium, the Verde & Black have scored multiple goals 10 times, including eight matches in which they scored at least three goals. Only once have they been held scoreless at home, meaning the Club’s supporters have seen plenty of fireworks in Austin.
If Austin takes care of playoff clinching business with a result against Salt Lake, the focus will turn to securing home field advantage. Finishing in the top four of the Western Conference will guarantee at least one home playoff match, while finishing in second place - where ATXFC currently resides - would also guarantee home field advantage if the Club were to reach the second round of the playoffs.
Real Salt Lake Outlook
Real Salt Lake finds itself in a playoff position at the moment, but only just. In seventh place, RSL is three points ahead of the LA Galaxy, and in need of points to solidify their spot in the race for the postseason.
Salt Lake matches this season have tended not to be high-scoring. The team has scored 38 goals (fourth-fewest in the Western Conference) and allowed 38 (tied for third-fewest in the Western Conference), exemplified by a scoreless draw last time out against D.C. United. Stopping Sergio Córdova and Jefferson Savarino - who are the team’s only players with more than three goals in 2022 - will be an area of focus for Austin, as will navigating around Pablo Ruiz, who ranks eighth among MLS midfielders with 41 successful tackles.
RSL’s road record ranks in the middle of the pack, with three wins, five draws, and seven losses from 15 away matches. To get the victory they need, the Verde & Black need to make home field advantage count, and be clinical in a match that may not feature many scoring chances for either side.
Probable Real Salt Lake Lineup
(4-4-2, R-L) - GK: Zac MacMath; Aaron Herrera, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Andrew Brody; Maikel Chang, Jasper Löffelsend, Pablo Ruiz, Justin Meram; Sergio Córdova, Jefferson Savarino