After yet another comeback result for Austin FC - this time overturning a two-goal deficit to draw with FC Dallas last Saturday night - the Verde & Black are set for a matchup with fellow MLS newcomers Charlotte FC this Thursday (kickoff at 6:00 p.m. CT).
It will be the first-ever meeting between the league’s two youngest clubs, with Charlotte currently in the midst of its inaugural season just as ATXFC were this time last year. Victory for Austin would mean a fifth road win of 2022, and would see the team finish its three-match June slate unbeaten.
Austin FC Outlook
Busy times are ahead for the Verde & Black. The team will play five games in 17 days, four of which are on the road - including three consecutive away games for the only time this season. The match against Charlotte marks the midway point of the 2022 campaign, and points gained from the challenging upcoming stretch would set the Club up very well for the second half of the season and the playoff push.
Two form trends in particular bode well for Austin in advance of its visit to North Carolina: that of its attacking trio, and that of its results on the road.
Sebastián Driussi, Diego Fagundez, and Maxi Urruti have a combined 17 goals and 13 assists between them, with Driussi’s nine goals and Fagundez’s eight assists tied for most in MLS in each category. Their production is so consistent that one or more of them either scored or assisted a goal in 14 of Austin’s 16 matches.
On their travels so far this season, the Verde & Black tallied 13 points from eight matches - good for the second-best away points-per-match average in the Western Conference. Two of Austin’s road wins were comebacks (against D.C. and Houston), and the other two came in adverse circumstances (against LAFC and Montréal).
If ATXFC can keep performing away from home, the team can provide a serious boost to its burgeoning playoff credentials.
Charlotte FC Outlook
On face value, Charlotte might not seem the toughest opponent. The club parted ways with its coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez after 14 league games despite decent results, and currently occupies ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 17 goals scored, tied for third-fewest in MLS.
Yet this expansion team is not one to take lightly, especially at Bank of America Stadium, where it has won 6 of 8 matches. Karol Świderski, Andre Shinyashiki, and rookie Ben Bender all pose a threat, as does former Austin FC winger McKinze Gaines. Kristijan Kahlina is enjoying a strong season in goal for Charlotte as well.
It’s a bit tricky to predict what Charlotte will look like on Thursday. The team was missing 10 players for its match last weekend against Montréal due to health and safety protocols, and it’s unclear how many - if any - of those names will be able to return to face Austin.
Even without many regular starters, the Crown gave Montréal a good battle, and the Verde & Black can expect the same no matter who they line up against this week.
Probable Charlotte FC Lineup
(4-4-1-1, R-L) - GK: George Marks; Jaylin Lindsey, Guzmán Corujo, Anton Walkes, Joseph Mora; Koa Santos, Derrick Jones, Brandt Bronico, Karol Świderski; Jordy Alcívar; Daniel Rios