Austin FC is down really, really bad right now.
Head coach Josh Wolff has tried everything, but despite persistent formation and personnel tweaks, Austin are the second lowest scoring team in MLS and the lowest scoring team in the Western Conference.
On Sunday night, Austin FC will welcome Columbus Crew to Q2 Stadium, giving the reigning MLS Cup champions the opportunity to score the first MLS goal and record the first ever MLS win at Q2. When current Austin FC and former Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt imagined the Crew playing in front of an electric Austin crowd, this is certainly not what he had envisioned.
Both sides are ailing from midweek losses, however the Crew have made a decent start to their 2021 campaign, while Austin is floundering near the bottom of the Western Conference.
Here’s what you need to know about the second-ever Austin FC match at Q2 Stadium:
Injuries piling up for ATX
In midweek, Wolff made four changes to the side that faced San Jose, and was forced into a fifth when captain Alex Ring reaggravated an injury he sustained during training. Ring will not be available for selection on Sunday.
To make matters worse, Nick Lima picked up a serious hamstring injury in Minnesota, that will see him on the sideline indefinitely. Veteran Matt Besler was unavailable in midweek, and will be reassessed ahead of Sunday night.
Thankfully for Wolff, Hector Jimenez has returned from injury just in time to relieve Lima, and a few of Wolff’s starters were given a rest in Minnesota.
With Zan Kolmanic, Jared Stroud and Jon Gallagher fresh and back in the side against Columbus, Austin will possess a lot more attacking potency than they did in midweek.
Additionally, Cecilio Dominguez was hooked at half time, so he should be rejuvenated for the weekend’s fixture. Wolff will need the Paraguayan to be at 100%, as he doesn’t have an out and out goalscorer at his disposal.
The potential birth of a rivalry
In his press conference ahead of the match on Sunday, the former Columbus assistant, Wolff, dismissed the idea that this weekend’s matchup is a rivalry. However, no matter what, Crew fans will always carry some sort of animosity towards the expansion team.
The slightest provocation from the Verde faithful at the weekend, wether in the stadium or online, could heighten the contempt Crew fans already feel for Austin FC. Many Austin FC fans will be already looking to antagonize the Crew, and over time, there will not be a lot of love lost for these two clubs.
History still yet to be made
Q2 Stadium was set to burst last Saturday night. The longer Austin FC fans have to wait for a goal, the bigger the celebration will be when the ball finally hits the back of the net for Austin in Q2.
The scenes that would unfold if Austin was to score a pivotal goal, or better yet, pick up their first win in almost two months, will definitely be something to watch for. If Austin is to achieve any of these milestones on Sunday night, playing against the Crew of all teams, it should be a night to remember.
Austin FC vs. Columbus Crew at Q2 Stadium, Saturday (6/27), 7:00 p.m. Televised nationally on FS1.
OUT: Danny Hoesen (Left Hip), Aaron Schoenfeld (Left Knee), Ulises Segura (Left Knee), Ben Sweat (ACL), Nick Lima (Left Hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Alex Ring (Right Ankle), Matt Besler (Right Foot)
Coach Quotes 6/25
Wolff on the central forward position: “We don’t have a striker, we know that’s something we need to address.”
Wolff on Columbus as a rival: “We have our own in-state rivals in Houston and Dallas.”