Everything clicked for Austin FC on Sunday night, as the team snapped a five-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy at Q2 Stadium. Goals from newcomers Moussa Djitté and McKinze Gaines, paired with a seven-save shutout by goalkeeper Brad Stuver, generated some positive momentum for the Verde & Black ahead of a busy week which will see the club play two more matches in the next six days.
Up first is a trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to take on the Colorado Rapids this Wednesday night. The sides have met twice before this season, with the away team prevailing on both occasions. Austin recorded its first goal and first win in club history with a 3-1 result against the Rapids on April 24, but Colorado flipped the script with a 1-0 victory in the Lone Star State on July 31, meaning this week’s matchup will settle the season series.
Austin FC Outlook
Back in the win column for the first time since Aug. 21, Austin’s players, coaches and fans will look to take momentum from one of ATXFC’s most complete performances this season. While Djitté, Gaines and Stuver grabbed the headlines, Head Coach Josh Wolff was quick to praise two of the game’s unsung heroes: Tomás Pochettino and Daniel Pereira, who formed an effective pivot in defensive midfield despite the absence of captain Alex Ring.
“It was a really good performance from [Pochettino] and Dani Pereira. Really responsible, really positional,” said Wolff after the match.
Austin’s inaugural season can be split into two parts. During its first 11 games in April, May and June, the team averaged about 0.55 goals per game but allowed just 1.0, keeping four clean sheets along the way. As the calendar turned to July, and in the 15 games since, ATXFC appeared to sacrifice some of its defensive solidity in search of more goals, and that’s exactly what happened - the club is averaging 1.4 goals per game during that stretch, and conceding 1.93.
For much of the campaign, the pieces have been there for Wolff’s squad, but have not quite come together in a 90-minute performance. Sunday’s win versus the Galaxy, though, was notable as perhaps the most effective stylistic balance the team has found between those two distinct parts of the season. It was just the second game this year in which Austin both scored and shut out its opponent, and it was accomplished by strong and connected play from back to front.
As supporters of the Verde & Black look ahead to the team’s final eight games, they will hope that balance between defense, midfield and attack can be struck consistently.
Colorado Rapids Outlook
The Rapids are one of the hottest teams in MLS at the moment, riding an 11-game unbeaten streak which has the team in third place in the Western Conference, on 45 points and well-positioned to claim a playoff place.
However, five of Colorado’s last six matches ended in draws, including all of its most recent four. Head Coach Robin Fraser has made his side very difficult to beat at home - in fact, the Rapids’ only loss at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park this season came at the hands of Austin FC back in April - but he will know the importance of turning one point into three down the stretch.
Colorado’s greatest strength is in defense. The team ranks second in MLS with 10 clean sheets, and its paltry 24 goals conceded in 25 games played are tied for second-fewest in the league, trailing only the Seattle Sounders.
The midfield duo of Kellyn Acosta and Jack Price are the team’s vital link, both protecting a solid backline which includes Keegan Rosenberry, Lalas Abubakar, Danny Wilson, and Auston Trusty and connecting with creators Mark-Anthony Kaye, Jonathan Lewis and Michal Barrios.
The Rapids’ “magic number” to clinch a spot in the postseason currently sits at 16 points, and with nine games remaining, the team will look to start whittling down that number against Austin on Wednesday.
Probably Colorado Rapids Lineup
(3-4-2-1, R-L): GK: William Yarbrough; Keegan Rosenberry, Danny Wilson, Auston Trusty; Braian Galvan, Kellyn Acosta, Jack Price, Lucas Esteves; Andre Shinyashiki, Jonathan Lewis; Michal Barrios