Following a narrow defeat in a hard-fought away match against the Portland Timbers last Saturday, Austin FC returns home to Q2 Stadium this Sunday to face Seattle Sounders FC. The Verde & Black have been terrific on home turf so far this season, scoring 10 goals and allowing one in a pair of victories over FC Cincinnati and Inter Miami CF to open the 2022 campaign.

Seattle provides a tough test after finishing second in the MLS Western Conference last season. ATXFC accomplished the tricky feat of earning a draw away against the Sounders last season, but fell 1-0 to Seattle at home in July courtesy of a wonder goal from Raúl Ruidíaz.

A victory over Seattle this Sunday would make a meaningful statement of intent from Austin ahead of the season’s first international break the following weekend.

Austin FC Outlook

The scoreboard showed a 1-0 defeat for Austin FC when the final whistle blew at Portland’s Providence Park on Saturday, but the result belied the strength of the team’s performance. Comparing last November’s visit to the Timbers - when Austin fell 3-0 - and last week’s match showed a team that has come on leaps and bounds in terms of its ability to compete against the top sides in MLS.

The Verde & Black may have felt unlucky not to leave the Pacific Northwest with some points in tow, and the stat line backs up that sentiment. Austin outshot Portland 16 to 14, completed 564 passes to its opponents 366, and accrued 31 touches in the opposition box to the Timbers’ 24.

As any soccer fan knows though, the only statistic which truly matters is goals, and Bill Tuiloma’s header from a set piece wound up separating the two sides on the night. Despite , there were plenty of positives to take from the match - as writer J. Sam Jones put it, “[Austin] aren’t the first or last team to lose 1-0 at Providence Park after largely outperforming the home team.”

ATXFC sits third in the Western Conference with two victories from three matches played, and has a chance to put down a marker with another strong performance at Q2 Stadium on Sunday, where the Verde & Black have won 6 of their last 7 matches.

Seattle Sounders FC Outlook

It’s been an up-and-down start to the year for Seattle. The Sounders successfully navigated a Concacaf Champions League tie against Honduran club FC Motagua, lost its opening two MLS games to Nashville SC and Real Salt Lake, then thrashed Liga MX’s León 3-0 in the first leg of the CCL Quarterfinals and came back to beat LA Galaxy 3-2 last weekend in MLS play.

Regardless of form, Seattle’s roster is full of talent and is well-coached by Brian Schmetzer, who has guided the club to four MLS Western Conference titles and two MLS Cup triumphs since taking the helm in 2016. The Sounders do have to travel to Mexico first to face León in the second leg of their CCL tie on Thursday, adding an extra layer of intrigue to Seattle's matchup with Austin FC. It’s anyone’s guess how that midweek match could affect Schmetzer's squad selection at the weekend.

The team has struggled a bit with injuries to key players, but might get a boost before Sunday. Playmaker Nicolás Lodeiro missed Seattle’s last three matches, but was back in full training on Tuesday and looks set to make his return to the side. Ruídiaz traveled with the team to Mexico though it’s unclear if he’ll be fit to feature in either match of the Sounders’ brief road swing.

One prominent name which should miss the pair of away games is center back Yeimar Gomez Andrade, a 2021 MLS Defender of the Year finalist who picked up a high-ankle sprain in Seattle’s win over the Galaxy.

Probable Seattle Sounders FC Lineup

(4-2-3-1, R-L) - GK: Stefan Frei; Alex Roldán, Jackson Ragen, Xavier Arreaga, Nouhou Tolo; Obed Vargas, João Paulo; Cristian Roldán, Nicolás Lodeiro, Jordan Morris; Fredy Montero