Week 8 of the 2021 season and Austin FC travel yet again to play Sporting Kansas City, in the only MLS match of the weekend. The visitors would be hoping to forget their last visit to Children’s Mercy Park — a 2-1 loss which included the sending off of captain Alex Ring.
As the last game before their home season opener, the Verde would want to cap off this travelling journey with a win. They would instead continue their current winless form with a 1-1 tie, bringing home a total of 8 points in 8 road games.
This week, Wolff would experiment with the formation, opting for a 4-4-2. Stuver undoubtedly in goal while Kolmanič, Besler, Cascante & Lima lined up in front of him. As for the midfield, Gallagher and Stroud were seated on the wings while Fagundez and Ring played centrally.
Up top, Pochettino would start as a forward alongside Cecilio Dominguez. Austin were in need of a tactical refresh, Pochettino had been playing too far back while Gallagher deserved to start over Hoesen. Wolff clearly made changes to solve these issues.
Sporting Kansas City took control early on in the match, owning possession and dictating pace of play. Despite the dominance, Austin would be the first to break the deadlock, as Cecilio Dominguez would score in the 26th minute. Kolmanič would find the Paraguayan at the top of the box who would then batter it into the bottom left corner. Characteristic of his previous goals, it seems that the DP works best when receiving passes in and around the 18 yard box.
ATXFC would continue to be tested in the first half. In the 33rd, after an SKC corner, the ball would land at the feet of Roger Espinoza who was directly in front of Stuver. Big-Time Brad would make the save, cutting off the angle perfectly. On another occasion, in the 43rd, Salloi would toe-poke the ball five feet from goal which Stuver would handle by punching it over.
By halftime the Verde visitors remained up 1-0, due in large part to the keeper’s heroics.
Early on in the second half, despite being pressed heavily, ATXFC would try to create opportunities through playing out the back. This would work with limited success, as SKC continued to regain and hold onto possession. Austin’s best chances would only come when occasionally playing on the counter.
In the 58th Wolff would make his first substitution, bringing on loanees Sebastian Berhalter and Manny Perez in place of Pochettino and Gallagher. Austin would also shift tactically, moving to a 4-5-1 formation. Berhalter would play as a fifth midfielder while Cecilio Dominguez would stay as a single forward. With an extra man in midfield the Verde would sit back, making it harder for Sporting KC to get a clear chance on goal.
Around the 70th mark, Wolff would make another double substitution. Kekuta Manneh and Rodney Redes would come on for Dominguez and Stroud.
Unfortunately for the Verde, Sporting KC would score moments later. A Gianluca Busio shot would deflect and land at the feet of Salloi who would put it away for the equalizer.
Austin would generate a few good chances later on. Twice within the span of five minutes we would see Manny Perez break on the ball with clear chances on goal. The first he would fire wide right. As for the second, he would pass it carefully across to Redes who would stumble and miss.
Stuver would continue to play lights out, saving numerous golden opportunities for SKC. After a slight tussle in the box (which resulted in two spectacular saves), he would go down with an apparent knock to his hip. Battered and bruised, Stuver would bravely see out the rest of the game.
Unlike his keeper, Diego Fagundez would be taken off ten minutes before extra time. Jhohan Romaña would replace the midfielder who had been apparently holding onto his left hamstring minutes earlier.
Even with 7 minutes of extra time, Austin were able to keep the score level and not fall behind. After the whistle was blown, an exhaustive gasp was heard collectively while many players fell to the floor. Even with two hydration breaks, both teams were gassed after enduring such hot weather.
Despite the tie, Austin should be relieved that this long away journey has now come to an end. Next week they will finally host their first match, let’s see if they can shake off some of the fatigue.