Week 6 of the MLS Season and Austin continue their treacherous away game schedule with a visit to Nashville. With four ties and one win, Nashville is still undefeated. The second year team’s success is due in large part to their extraordinary defensive effort — effectively shutting out their opponents over the past three weeks. Heading into the match, Austin would try to redeem themselves after an embarrassing showing last week against the Galaxy.
The starting lineup took a familiar shape: Nick Lima returned as a defensive starter alongside Romaña, Besler and Kolmanič. Coming back from suspension, captain Alex Ring rejoined Pereira and Pochettino to form the midfield three. Up top, Hoesen remained as the number 9 while Dominguez and Redes were placed on the wings.
Despite a better starting 11 than the one put forth in the previous match, the Verde would continue their poor form with a 1-0 loss to Nashville.
From the onset, Nashville would test the Verde’s discipline by keeping a high press. Austin would occasionally pass through the press, but like previous matches, would find it difficult to retain possession.
Things would start to tense up for Austin a half hour into the match. In the 34th, center-back Jhohan Romaña would fall to the ground clutching his hamstring. He would be immediately replaced by Julio Cascante. To make matters worse, Nashville would break the deadlock a minute later with a goal from Randall Leal. After winning the ball in Austin territory, Cadiz would cross it in to find the number 8 in the box.
Nashville wouldn’t let up, and for a solid five minutes of play, they would retain the ball in and around Austin’s 18 yard box. Despite pressure, ATXFC were luckily able to keep it 1-0 for the remainder of the first half.
Play remained relatively the same for the first 20 minutes of the second. Occasionally, Austin would carry the ball up but would get easily exposed on the counter once Nashville had recovered possession.
This left Josh Wolff with no choice but to alter his lineup and in the 63rd he would make a double substitution. Redes would be replaced by Jared Stroud, while Danny Hoesen would be taken off yet again by Jon Gallagher.
Momentum started to shift, as ten minutes later ATXFC began to control possession while Nashville held back in a defensive block. Confidence began to rise and Austin would easily string together a combination of passes as their opponents stood back and watched.
In the 73rd, a long ball landed at the feet of Jared Stroud and he would score immediately afterwards. Sadly, VAR had determined that he was initially in an offside position and therefore the goal was waived off.
Austin would continue with their attack but to no avail. Ten minutes later, Wolff would make another double substitution, bringing on Manneh and Fagundez in place of Cecilio and Pereira.
Even with the changes the Verde could not get past the home team’s defensive block. The best chances would come from counters by Nashville. In one instance, Dominique Badji had a breakaway with a clear a chance on goal. Fortunately, Goalkeeper Brad Stuver denied the striker with another big-time save.
Despite another loss, there were instances where Austin had taken over the game and played their brand of soccer. Had they been more decisive in and around goal, the result would have more than likely changed.
Unfortunately, week 7 will be their toughest task to date. The Verde will head to Cascadia to face MLS’ best, the Seattle Sounders. Results aside, let’s hope to see them compete as they test their mental toughness against the league’s number one ranked opponent.