A gritty, effortful performance by Austin FC leads to a 2-1 victory over Los Angeles FC. Through twelve games, Austin returns to its rightful spot in first place in the Western Conference, ahead of LAFC on goal difference.
Four changes to Austin FC’s starting lineup saw Brad Stuver return after missing the previous two matches due to injury. Nick Lima replaced Hector Jimenez at right back. Jhojan Valencia replaced the suspended Daniel Pereira in the holding midfield role. And finally, the 17-year-old Owen Wolff made his Major League Soccer debut in place of Ethan Finlay on the right wing.
The first half started with LAFC pressing Austin deep in our defensive half. This press forced sloppy passes, heavy touches, and poorly timed tackles. Since LAFC had most of the possession, Austin was forced to try and hit LAFC on the counter by making runs in behind the defense.
Against the run of play, Austin were given a corner thanks to a poor back pass by Kellyn Acosta. The corner was headed clear to the edge of the penalty area, but Valencia won the ball back and whipped it into the feet of Ruben Gabrielsen. Gabrielsen turned, waited for the LAFC defenseman to slide, and coolly put the ball in the back of the net. After 13 minutes, Austin lead 1-0.
Just four minutes later, Stuver made an excellent double save following Austin giving the ball away just outside the penalty area. Stuver left his six-yard box to palm away shots from Latif Blessing and Carlos Vela keeping Austin ahead.
Austin found more success playing on the shoulder of defenders and running in behind. Diego Fagúndez missed an excellent opportunity in the 23rd minute, hitting the crossbar on a cutback from Sebastián Driussi. This was followed up by a tremendous kick save by Stuver on the other end just seconds later.
LAFC continued to ramp up the pressure on Austin as the half progressed, however attacks from LAFC were thwarted by good goalkeeping and last ditch defending. Austin managed to slow the match down and headed into halftime up 1-0.
The halftime substitute, Cristian Arango, terrorized Austin’s defense for most of the second 45 minutes. LAFC enjoyed nearly all of the possession in the second half, leading to several excellent chances for Arango, Vela, and others.
The counterattack finally paid off in the 80th minute. LAFC kept pushing further and further up field. Driussi had three LAFC players on him, but somehow chipped an excellent RABONA through ball to an open Fagúndez. Fagúndez had Maxi Urruti and Felipe Martins as options but waited out LAFC’s two defenders and hit his shot low and to the near post, Austin 2-0 LAFC.
LAFC would not go quietly. A through ball over the top found Vela in behind Austin’s defense. Vela touched the ball past Stuver, but there was contact between the two. The resulting penalty was converted off the post by Vela, Austin 2-1 LAFC.
The remainder of the game was all LAFC, but Austin would not break. I started to write everyone who made tackles or interceptions to preserve the lead, but it truly was everyone. This collective effort saw Austin prevail, 2-1.
Final Score: Austin FC 2, LAFC1.
Next up, Austin FC travels back home to take on Orlando City SC on Sunday, May 22. Orlando is currently in 4th place in the Eastern Conference having tallied 20 points through 12 games.
A supreme effort tonight
Every single player gave the maximum amount of effort tonight and the results followed. This on just three days rest as well. Urruti must have run a half marathon tonight, and he is not the only one. Particularly in the later stages of the second half, each and every one of them gave it everything they had. For that, they deserve the praise we will be able to give them on Sunday.
LAFC and Squad Depth
LAFC are quite the team. It’s going to take a real effort for anyone to beat them to the supporters shield this season. The scariest part about LAFC is their squad depth. Being able to bring on players like Arango and Brian Rodríguez seems almost unfair. On many other nights LAFC may have beaten Austin, so we need to savor this victory for what it is. We can go toe to toe with LAFC.
Tonight’s player spotlight is dedicated to Owen Wolff. Wolff made his MLS debut and looked every bit the part of a successful winger in this league. His ability to hold the ball, beat defenders and the dribble, and be in the right places is very encouraging. I am very excited to see what Wolff can contribute this season.
Goal Scoring Summary – Austin FC
- 13’ – Ruben Gabrielsen (Jhojan Valencia)
- 80’ – Diego Fagúndez (Sebastían Driussi)
Goal Scoring Summary – LAFC
- 86’ – Carlos Vela (Penalty)
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