Austin FC were held scoreless on the road against a difficult Portland side. Through three games, ATXFC find themselves in third place in the Western Conference, just one point out of first.
Ruben Gabrielsen made the starting lineup for the first time in an ATXFC kit, supplanting Kip Keller. Early on, Gabrielsen looked sharp cutting out several attacking opportunities.
The defensive line as a whole held strong in the first half despite some shaky moments. Žan Kolmanič had two excellent tackles that prevented shots in dangerous positions. The run of play was a frantic back-and-forth affair.
In the 24th minute, Portland attacked with numbers. In the box, Gabrielsen over-committed, but a great recovery by Julio Cascante blocked Dairon Asprilla’s shot.
There were warning signs for Portland in the 32nd minute, Driussi scored a tap in after a sustained attack, but was rightfully ruled out for offside.
Portland defender Bill Tuiloma then hit the post from a header in the 40th minute. However, Austin answered with the final scoring opportunity in the first half. ATXFC went close in the 44th but Maxi Urruti could not get his head to a cross put in by Alex Ring. Scoreless after 45 minutes.
The second half started much the same as the first half ended. Portland looked very good on the right wing near the beginning of the second half. ATXFC blocked two consecutive shots in the 51st minute to keep the match scoreless.
Both teams looked to hit the other on quick attacks from turnovers, ratcheting the intensity up in the midfield. Five yellows (three to Austin and two to Portland) were given before the hour mark due to that intensity.
Tuiloma scored for Portland in the 62nd minute on a header from a set piece. That set piece was caused by an unnecessary Daniel Pereira foul. Tuiloma benefitted from weak defending by Gabrielsen. Gabrielsen did slip on the wet turf in the set piece, but he was already beaten by Tuiloma by that point in time.
Following the goal, ATXFC enjoyed the majority of possession, culminating in a good chance for Cecilio Domínguez in the 70th minute. However, Dominguez would blast the half volley over the crossbar.
The remainder of the match featured ATXFC sustaining offensive pressure in and around Portland’s penalty area. Portland seemed content to sit back and pump long balls forward in an attempt to hit Austin on the counter.
This nearly worked if not for the positioning of John Gallagher on three separate occasions, and Gabrielsen on one other occasion, cutting these long ball attempts off. There were a few more half chances for ATXFC in stoppage time, but those ultimately proved unsuccessful.
It must be said, the officiating crew had a rough night. Most notably, ATXFC were denied a penalty claim in the 78th minute. Rasmussen, The Portland defender, deliberately moved his elbow into the ball in the penalty area from an Austin corner. This is about as clear as a handball gets. Wolff should receive an apology this week as it likely costs ATXFC a valuable point against a tough road opponent.
Final Score: Austin FC 0, Portland 1.
Next up, Austin FC are back home at Q2 Stadium to take on the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, March 20th.
Pereira with a Solid Performance
A lot of discussion before the match centered around how Pereira would fair against an experienced, physical, Portland midfield. Pereira wasn’t perfect, but I thought he played a solid game. He was physical enough to hold his own against Diego Chara. His positioning was very good in the first half. Either fatigue or frustration started to impact his play in the second half, but he’ll improve with time.
No Space for Driussi
Portland clearly wanted to remove Driussi entirely from the game. They did a good job making sure he wasn’t as big of a threat as he was against Cincinnati or Miami. Without Driussi on the ball, Austin often looked hesitant to get balls into dangerous positions.
Return of the Poor Road Performance?
Last season, Austin was extremely poor on the road. This game, however, was not an example of more of the same. Austin held their own against one of the best home sides in the league. I thought Austin looked up for a fight. Austin won’t face many more difficult sides on the road this season, so I think the performance overall was positive, even if the result was not.
Austin FC Goal Scoring Summary
Goal Scoring Summary – Portland Timbers
- 62’ – Bill Tuiloma (assisted by Yimmi Chara)
(Cover Photo Credit: Austin FC)
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