Austin FC took home their second win of the season in a gritty, yet mostly dominant visit to Minnesota United FC. The Verde dominated the game in the opening minutes, with Diego Fagúndez scoring his second goal for the club, one on the night, moving him equal to Cecilio Domínguez with most goals for the team.
The game would be characterized by rough tackles and several brief injury scares from Austin FC, as well as intermittent periods where the ATXFC defense would bend, but not break to mounting Minnesota pressure. A few close chances for the Loons and even more missed goals from the away team ended after a nervy last 10 minutes, giving the newest MLS team their second win in three games against respectable teams, despite Minnesota’s recent slump in form.
Head Coach Josh Wolff and team captain Alex Ring spoke to media after the game about Austin FC’s first shut out.
Head Coach Josh Wolff
On Rodney Redes’ impact off the bench:
“Yeah, I think so. I think it’s a great point, I think he comes in it’s, It’s challenging to come in as a sub sometimes depending on what the situation is in the game, but I give credit to him and the rest of our subs. they came in, and again, they gave us another lift, we probably should have finished that game off a little bit early. Rodney had a nice chance late. We could’ve executed a little bit better to kill the game off and get some more goals. But Rodney [is] a young man. He’s learning what we’re doing, both on the offensive and defensive side. But his effort and his enjoyment that he brings, and his attitude that he brings every day is fantastic. He’s going to play a lot of minutes for us, and he’s going to score a lot of goals for us, would have been nice to see him get one today. But he did a nice job coming in understanding to stretch the field, also at times in the pocket, he linked up on the left side was Jon pretty well, and then we and then we moved them over there to the right as Jared [Stroud] lost his legs a bit. Good performance by him, and [he] was unlucky to not get a goal. Wish could have got one.”
His thoughts on possession and performance:
“I thought we did a good job controlling the pace of the game, the tempo. I would have liked us to play with a little more speed in the first half. But I thought we got access to really good spots on the field, probably weren’t clinical enough and ruthless enough in some areas. But again, we should have put two or three on the board in the first half, I thought. That had to do a little bit with how we were rearranging the midfield and getting into some spaces. [It’s] always going to be challenging playing on the road; we have eight games on the road. So, we do want to go in and play our game. we do want to have possession. And we also still need to think about how it can be goal dangerous and goal threatening and then execute in front of goal.”
“We were at 61[%] at one point, and we certainly didn’t maintain the same level in the second half as we did in the first, but I thought Tomás [Pochettino] and Diego [Fagúndez] and Alex [Ring] were extremely good, and Cecilio [Domínguez] started popping into pockets. That first half, I think, it was nice to see those guys interact – just again, more clinical, more ruthlessness.”
The center-back pairing and Brad Stuver’s performance:
“I think the backline deserves a lot of credit today. And Alex as well. I mean, patrolling the midfield dealing with [Emanuel] Reynoso. Their striker was a big boy, he got into some good spots. Brad made a key save there at the end, but Matt [Besler] and Jhohan [Romaña] were pretty steady. I think Matt with the ball was nice, he creates problems, he finds good pathways through the midfield, and Jhohan’s coming along. I think with Jhohan [he’s gonna need the minutes]. He’s gonna have to push his fitness level. As he gets tired, you can see the willingness to play, the willingness to look forward starts to dip, but those are part of the challenges with a 21-year-old, 22-year-old from Columbia coming into this league and in trying to hang in there. I thought they both did really well, competed really well. Romaña won a fair share of duels in the air. He’s fantastic, and Matt did the same. So, backline, Brad – fantastic job. Fantastic job.”
On changing the game plan while still sticking to their style of play:
“I think our game model is evolving, and I think we try to build this in a way that’s digestible. We don’t want to put too many things in front of the players that start to create confusion. We want organization, we want structure, but we also want these offensive principles to be able to apply. Based on the opponent, we start thinking about how we can sometimes move guys into different spots and how we can rearrange that. But it’s still going to relate to how we want to play and having guys that can stretch the field like Jared [Stroud] and Danny [Hoesen] did in the first half. Cecilio came into pockets, and Diego and Tomas were moving into some difficult pockets to be accounted for. So it’s all part of the ideas, and we’re just, we can’t present everything right away. We’re still evolving. There’s still a lot we need to work on but I was glad they took in the information we worked on this last week, came in and applied it. The disappointment is that we didn’t score more goals, created some really good chances and didn’t take those opportunities, and I could still say we could probably continue to create more.”
Why he substituted Cecilio Domínguez and the team’s fitness levels:
“I think our whole group is still developing from a fitness standpoint. Our conditioning probably won’t be at its peak probably till in June or July. There’s a lot of guys that haven’t seen significant minutes. obviously, [considering] what last year looked like for certain players, but Cecilio is pretty fit. He took a beating out there as well. So, part of it was looking out for him physically, where he was at. He puts a lot into it: he comes into pockets, he stretches the line, he gets in front of goal. There’s still a need for us to keep driving the game and we wanted some verticality. And we had in Jared one side and, obviously, Rodney can bring that as well. But it was more just looking out for what the game needed. We introduced three guys to kind of freshen it up and again, give us the ability to stretch but also give us the ability to to maintain possession a bit more.”
On the team’s first clean sheet and the promise of the young backline:
“No, it’s good. It’s what I said to these guys after the game, is what I’m most proud of is their ability to grind. It was tough. It’s always tough to go on the road. We know we got eight games, but I don’t really spend a ton of time talking about being on the road. These are games that we have to play, and they happen to be on the road, and we’re learning about each other more and more every day, but we still want to go play the way we play in the way that we’ve introduced the game to these guys. They take that in, they come out and they execute it, and that’s promising. It’s only going to get more challenging. We’re only going to play some of these other teams, Portland and Kansas City, and Seattle, so it doesn’t get any easier and we’ll be back against Minnesota again as well. So I’m proud to get the win, really excited to get the zero obviously. On the road anytime you can grab three points is great, but to pitch a shutout in Minnesota is not easily done. It was a collective effort on both sides of the ball.”
How the team dealt with Minnesota’s crosses and chances in the last minutes of the game:
“[Romain] Metanire’s good and Žan [Kolmanič] was hanging in there. We brought in Hector [Jiménez] to help give us a little bit more of a guy that could play that position and obviously help out defensively I think he had a little wobble right there at the beginning and was a little bit nervous, but once he got into the game and up to speed it was okay. Yeah, they’re gonna take chances late, they’re gonna push guys high on the line, the fullbacks and start putting balls in the box. We talked about it, again, before the game. This is a team that will waste very little time putting the ball in the box. They’re going to have bodies, and at that point, it’s about our backline maintaining good connections, being really compact inside those areas right in front of goal, and our in our center-mid’s doing a good job protecting that cutback space and second balls at the top [of the] box, as well as Brad doing a good job punching and cleaning some stuff up. We certainly were fortunate to not take one there at the end but we should have had two or three, in all fairness. We dealt with it. It’s always difficult late in the games.”
Whether or not Stroud surprised him:
“Not at all. Not at all. When I looked at Jared, those are some of the few things that really stood out. One is ability to run, stretch the line Obviously, he comes from a pressing culture, so his defending is really good but his ability to serve balls, to whip balls in early behind the line was really good when we looked and reviewed his footage from Red Bulls, whether the left side or the right side. We work on positioning, and movements and timing, and we’ve popped them down into the pockets a few times. So again, he’s a player that’s taking in information, trying to apply it as best he can, and I think you’re starting to see some of the rewards of that. Obviously, he’s a machine. He works tirelessly. That’s infectious around the field, and it certainly helps us in a lot of ways, both offensively and defensively. Really excited he can contribute again, it was a good goal. Really good service. Great finish by Diego.”
On the team’s celebrations after scoring and the reactions to come during the remainder of the season:
“It’s good. I think the reactions are genuine. They’re authentic. These guys have worked their butts off, and that camaraderie and that bond is being built. When you’re in the course of the season, sometimes you come to a point where it’s just good to go on the road for the team to bond, but every game right now is on the road for us. These guys have done a great job of coming together in a short amount of time, in two or three months. We’ve worked really hard, we’ve defined a lot of things and we’ve suffered through moments and excelled in some others. They deserve it. These fans deserve it, these players deserve it and this organization deserves it. It’s reflective of what we’re building. It’s a very holistic approach and everybody’s involved, everybody’s part of it. Our whole staff works tirelessly every week, and these players appreciate that, and they repay that by the way they perform. Excited for them again today. We’ll enjoy this moment and dust up and get ready for another one next week. It’s going to be challenging to go to Kansas City, another really good team. We’ll put something together and get these guys ready.”
On both teams hitting the post during the game and other critical moments in the game:
“It always it teeters on an edge at times. When it’s 1-0, you try not to focus on the what could-have-beens earlier in the game that could have put the game away in a better way. We certainly had a couple moments, Johnny [Gallagher], Rodney, some transitions there later. Unfortunate to not get it done. What we don’t get, maybe we get a little bit fortunate at the other end as well. I think it’s the right result. I think we deserve the win coming here and playing the way we played, and creating the opportunities that we did. Obviously, it’s always nerve racking when you’re trying to close it out, but I thought our guys did a reasonably good job of that. I like that it ended on a set-piece. We had a difficult time in Colorado with a very good team, and they brought the house for that last play, and we were able to, obviously, survive it, deal with it and compete, and get the three points.”
Austin FC Captain Alex Ring
What he’s happiest with from their performance:
“I think most of the time we did a good job with the ball, and I think we had them running pretty much and anything dangerous they had was basically a little bit of sloppiness from us, but just the grind to get the three points; that’s what we came here for. Really proud of the boys. We did it for 90 minutes, we put in the dirty work and, yeah, it feels amazing to have two wins in a row with the guys.”
Has having three different midfield line-ups affected the chemistry of the team?
“I think anyone who’s filled that role has done his job understands his job. I think we’ve done a good job. Now if you’re talking specifically about the midfield against LA, against Colorado, today, so kudos to the guys who you know stepped up and done the job for the team.”
What the team has to improve on:
“Yeah, I think the basics are there, it’s just about being more ruthless in front of goal. I think today we could have killed off the game earlier. We had chances to score two, three, myself included. But yeah, it brings a little bit more calmness after, like you saw in Colorado where we took our chances, and then it’s really hard for the other team. Nevertheless, I think the basics are there; there’s always room for improvement but we’re in the third game of the season now and I think we should be happy where we are at the moment. We worked really hard in the offseason, we put in the work in the games. Six points out of three difficult away games is a good way to start, but we want more.”
On how proud he is of the team for committing to a physical game:
“Yeah, I mean they had their backs against the wall. They started with two losses so we knew that’s one of their traits, to play physical. You have to accept the battle and compete, and I think we did that today. I think we played hard, we played for each other. I’m really proud, that’s what I was saying before, everyone did their job, put in the work and usually, this is the result you get when you do that. You give yourself a chance to win and the boys did fantastic. Really proud of that.”
Does the expectation to score goals before a match empower the team?
“That’s our mentality, everyone knows we’re on the road until June 19, I believe, and in this league, everything is about the mentality, the effort you put in, and then the quality will play itself out after that. So, as I told the boys today, we don’t travel here for nothing, no, we come here and we want to take the three points and that’s how we performed.”
Was there a team talk or change when Minnesota began to apply more pressure toward the end of the game?
“There is no talk. I think when you’re 1-0 up, it’s normal that the other team starts to play more direct, starts to put balls in the boxes. And you know, that’s why we have Brad in goal. It’s his job to prevent goals. He had one good save today, big one for us. But I think that’s just the nature of the game. If the other team is up by a goal the last 10 minutes, if you don’t close out the game, like we didn’t today, early enough, then that’s the pressure you have to deal with. Games like this, where we prevail, these are gonna take us further and it’s gonna give us the experience we need as a new thing. And yeah, the lesson is kill off the game earlier, so you don’t put yourself there. And if we get there, then we do our job and we take the three points home.”
Did he focus on taking Reynoso out of the game himself?
“I didn’t focus too much on him. Our game plan is to play our style. I think Diego and Poche did a fantastic job defensively. It was hard for them to find him, and when you have your one-on-ones with him, you know, you just have to take care of it. So, we didn’t focus too much, we know of his quality, but I think the way we played it was hard for them to find him in dangerous spots. So that’s a credit to the whole team, to Josh, for preparing us well, not too much to say about that otherwise.”
How does the clean sheet help the team moving forward?
“Yeah, it’s something we haven’t had this season, so I think that’s something we need to hold on to. We want to play a certain style, and if we don’t take our chances like we didn’t today, then the bare minimum is to keep a clean sheet to take a result home. And like I said, I think the guys did a fantastic job. Guys who came in still stay dangerous. I think we had a couple of really, really good breakaways and like I said, you know, soccer, that’s how it is – when they’re one goal down, they’re playing at home, they’re gonna start playing more direct, gonna start crossing balls in, and I thought we dealt with really well with them.”
Do the recent results help install and enforce the way the team wants to play moving forward?
“For sure. It builds confidence, shows that we’re doing things right, picking up results and doing it in mostly in the way, in the style we want to do it. And like I said, that’s credit to the team, to the staff. We’ve been working really hard in the offseason, but you never really know where you are until the season starts. So I think we just have to continue, we should enjoy this win. Today, maybe tomorrow, but then we put our sights on Kansas. We’re going to travel there to play them on Sunday, and we’re going to go with the same mindset that we’ve been going in this whole season, is to get a result.”