On a historic night for Major League Soccer in Texas, Austin FC downed in-state rivals Houston Dynamo 3-2 in front of a sell-out crowd at Q2 Stadium. Man of the Match Tomás Pochettino scored the first two for the home side while Cecilio Domínguez notched his team-high fourth goal of the season.
It only took seven minutes for Austin FC to strike first when center back Julio Cascante found Pochettino on the back post. The Argentine’s well-struck shot bounced off the crossbar, before deflecting off Houston defender Zarek Valentin and into the back of the net.
The situation improved even more for Austin in the 20th minute. Sebastian Berhalter was all over the Dynamo’s Darwin Ceren and the central midfielder lashed out -- landing an elbow to Berhalter’s head. Ceren was immediately shown a red card, putting Austin up a man for 70 minutes.
Houston were able to bounce back in the 27th minute when they capitalized on a mistake in the back from Austin. Brad Stuver was able to make the initial save on Corey Baird but Canada international Tyler Pasher polished off the rebound to level the score.
The Verde & Black would retake the lead in first-half stoppage time. Žan Kolmanič played a cross that eventually found the foot of Diego Fagundez. His shot was saved by Houston ‘keeper Marko Maric but Pochettino was again in the right place at the right time and the Argentine scored his second of the match as Austin took a 2-1 lead into halftime.
After controlling the ball at the start of the second half, Domínguez added some insurance in the 56th minute. Hector Jiménez played Fagundez through to the endline and the 26-year-old clipped a cross to the far post that Domínguez was able to power into the back of the net with his head.
Austin dominated the ball and the chances over the final 30-plus minutes, fully taking advantage of its numerical superiority, though Fafa Picault was able to get one goal back in the 86th minute after a mistake by Stuver.
The insurance goal from Domínguez allowed Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff to give some valuable rest to Cascante, Ring, Jiménez, Domínguez and Fagundez ahead of a busy part of the schedule.
- POCHETTINO GETS ON SCORESHEET: While Tomás Pochettino has been one of the most consistent pieces of the Austin FC team sheet in the first half of the season, Wednesday night was his breakout party. The Argentine playmaker was able to get into the box consistently, creating dangerous chances and scoring his first two goals for the Club.
- MIDFIELD SHIFT: In an effort to help his side find the back of the net more consistently, Wolff decided to move Fagundez from central midfield to the right wing. The tactical shift paid off, not only providing some punch in the attacking third but also pushing Berhalter into the starting XI and moved Ring into a more attacking role. Ring was able to provide more going forward than usual, while Berhalter was more than solid at the No. 6. The moves were successful and unlocked a front six that scored three goals.
- RIVALRY ADVANTAGE: There’s little doubt that there was added intensity to a match that was the first in what is sure to be a rivalry for years to come. For now, Austin FC has the bragging rights and it will be looking for more against another in-state rival when Austin heads up to Frisco to face FC Dallas on Saturday.
- Wolff on why Austin have scored a lot of goals in certain matches: "One thing ties them together -- getting the goal. When we beat Minnesota in Minnesota we could have had three or four goals. It's a confidence thing, it's a desire. When these guys get a goal they're hungry."
- Pochettino on scoring his first goals (through an interpreter): "Obviously I think it was great for me to be able to score. Sometimes it's more difficult because you're not scoring and your team wins, but in this case we haven't won that many matches so it's much more important now and feels much greater."
- Wolff on taking momentum into next match: "It's going to be a great scene for our fans to go on the road for another derby. We talked about it this week, our first two derbies, let's take care of business in our first one and set ourselves up for the second one. Part of that job is done, now we have to recover and recuperate. Momentum is a big part of this entire league. Good performances help us build momentum. When you get results the first thing is understanding what we did well here and knowing what it's going to look like against Dallas."