Austin FC shares the spoils in 6 goal preseason thriller, ultimately loses out in penalties

In a thrilling match for the neutral, Austin FC fans will be disappointed to see their back 4 ship 3 goals for the 2nd straight match. 

FC Dallas beat Austin FC 4-2 on penalties in a La Copita preseason match in Frisco, that ended 3-3 at full time. The FC Dallas win on penalties meant that they gained 2 points in La Copita standings, while Austin FC took home 1 point.

Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff decided to go with an entirely different Starting XI from the one that played against Houston Dynamo last Saturday. When asked about his decision to completely rotate the side, Wolff said squad rotation was inevitable with preseason games starting to add up.

“We got 4 games for these guys over the course of 10 days, so there has to be squad rotation,” Wolff said after the match. “At some point we start formulating our starting group, but these guys played 75 minutes and played their hearts out.”

Whenever the Austin FC defense pushed higher up the pitch, FC Dallas’ array of pacey forwards were able to get in behind and punish them. This defensive frailty was exposed 11 minutes into the match, as Dallas winger Freddy Vargas blazed past Austin FC center back Julio Cascante, and held off right back Hector Jimenez, to get in behind and impressively thunder home the game’s opening goal.

This was a real gut check for a defense who was tasked with facing an attack very similar to the one that started for Dallas in the playoffs last year. Despite showing moments of vulnerability, Wolff backed his defense.

“Dallas had a couple transition moments, which we gave away balls in our own third, and they punished us,” Wolff said. “You see some quality from the opponent there as well, but I think the backline played really well.”

Wolff also admitted his defense struggled to deal with set pieces, which was evident when FC Dallas skipper, Matt Hedges, finished off scraps from a corner. Hedges doubled the Dallas advantage just a couple minutes after missing a similar point blank opportunity from a corner.

After going 2-0 down, Wolff’s men grew into the match and went into half time much improved.

The momentum completely shifted in the second half, as winger Jared Stroud cut Austin’s deficit in half with a powerful left-footed finish into the bottom corner. Just a couple minutes later, Austin FC was awarded a penalty, which midfielder Diego Fagundez tucked home.

In the 73rd minute, attacking midfielder Cecilio Dominguez came on for a visibly exhausted Kekutah Manneh. Just seconds after coming on, Dominguez won a penalty with his first touch and then scored the penalty with his second, to complete a remarkable second half turnaround.

After Dominguez’s goal made it 3-2, Wolff replaced the rest of the starting lineup with the players who started the match against Houston Dynamo. Austin’s lead was relatively short lived, as the substitutes struggled to catch up with the speed of play, according to Wolff.

The only player for Austin FC to go the full 90, goalkeeper Brad Stuver, made a crucial point blank stop in the 80th minute to deny Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira the equalizer. But 5 minutes later, Ferreira had the last laugh, slotting home a Vargas cross to level proceedings at 3-3.

Each side secured 1 point with the draw, and they went to a penalty shootout to decide who would take home the 2nd. Despite converting from the spot kick on both occasions during the match, Austin’s penalties were quite tame and they lost the shootout 4-2.

Ultimately, Austin FC supporters should be encouraged to see their side go toe to toe with a strong FC Dallas team, despite fielding what may turn out to be their b-team. It remains to be seen who will take the field against San Antonio FC in the final match of preseason, as Wolff will look to zero in on his Starting XI.

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