Austin FC will travel to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to face off against Colorado Rapids on Saturday night, in their second-ever MLS match. Austin’s first match against LAFC was a bit of a baptism of fire, so Colorado should be a much more mild test.
Note on the Opposition
Colorado had a strong season by their standards last year, finishing 5th in the Western Conference and making MLS Cup Playoffs. However, they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by Minnesota United, 3-0.
Their first and only match of the 2021 campaign was a 0-0 draw away to FC Dallas. They played a 4-2-3-1 and struggled to create many chances against Dallas. Goalkeeper William Yarborough was the stand out performer for Colorado, keeping a clean sheet in their opening match.
This provides a nice benchmark for Austin, as FC Dallas was one of two MLS sides they met in preseason.
Austin FC also drew with Dallas when the two Texas sides met in preseason, with the score 3-3 on that occasion. Dallas fielded a very similar team to the one they deployed against Colorado, while Austin played their b-team.
While it was a preseason match, and Austin were a little lucky to come away with a draw, it still shows there is a lot more parity between Austin and Colorado than Austin and LAFC.
Players to watch for Colorado include Younes Namli in defensive midfield, and Michael Barrios on the wing. With Kellyn Acosta filling in for the injured Sam Vines at left back, Namli will have to play more withdrawn in midfield, limiting his ability to create chances. Barrios will look to exploit the channel between Ben Sweat and Matt Besler, as his pace should be an issue for the slow Austin defense.
Keys for Austin FC
Keep possession and stick to Wolff’s gameplan: After a nervy opening 10 minutes for Austin, they finally slowed down the match to their own tempo, keeping possession and looking better in the first half. The one bright spot from last weekend for Austin is that they ended the match with around 55% possession against a much better side, showing their ability to play in tight spaces against the high press.
Limit giveaways at the back: When Austin FC plays the way that Wolff wants, they play out from the back. There were a couple of times against LA that Austin got caught in possession by the high press, and lost the ball in dangerous areas. Their defense has also proved to be slow to recover in these situations, so it is imperative they go long when they sense danger.
Finish their chances: Easier said than done obviously, but Austin will need to do much better than they did against LAFC to beat Yarborough and open their MLS scoring account. Jon Gallagher should get the start against Rapids after he posed much more of a threat than Danny Hoesen. Also, Rodney Redes and Cecilio Dominguez will need to step up if Austin is to create more chances and find the crucial finish against this compact Rapids defense.
Time to Make a Statement
Austin FC went into their first match knowing they were up against a tough LAFC side, and were a little tentative. This time against Colorado they should look to play much more aggressively, because they can go toe to toe with this Rapids team.
Tomás Pochettino, Alex Ring and Dani Pereira looked pretty impressive last weekend, and this midfield looks to be Austin’s main strength. They should be able to keep possession much better in Colorado, and Pochettino will look to create more chances and make late runs into the box like he did against LAFC.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver will likely get the nod in between the sticks again after a solid showing in California. Wolff seems to prefer his distribution to Andrew Tarbell’s anyways, which is key to their ability to play out from the back.
Even though Redes and Dominguez struggled against LA, they have undeniable quality and will find their feet in MLS sooner rather than later. If they can get going, they will be a nightmare for Colorado’s makeshift left back, Acosta, and right back Keegan Rosenberry.
Austin FC vs. Colorado Rapids at DSG Park, Saturday 4/24, 8 p.m. (CT). Televised regionally on CW Austin and live-streamed on the Austin FC app.
4-3-3 (From Left to Right) GK: Brad Stuver; LB: Ben Sweat, LCB: Matt Besler, RCB: Jhohan Romaña, RB: Nick Lima; CDM: Alex Ring (C), CM: Dani Pereira, CM: Tomás Pochettino; LW: Cecilio Dominguez, ST: Jon Gallagher, RW: Rodney Redes
OUT: Forward Aaron Schoenfeld (Left Knee), Midfielder UlisesSegura (Left Knee)