Today, Austin will complete its three game road stint before returning home for a Copa Tejas matchup against Houston. From a strictly environmental standpoint, this may be the Verde’s toughest away game of the bunch. Despite all the bluster about Charlotte’s opening season, Austin strolled in mid-week to a stadium without the lower bowl even remotely filled. That won’t be the case on a Saturday in Atlanta where they consistently pack in 42k+. Pile onto that the fact that Mercedes-Benz Stadium is one of the few MLS venues with turf (a surface that Austin’s struggled on in the past) and you can see why Josh Wolff’s midweek press conference highlighted the need for his players to, “adjust as quickly as possible.”
Coming off a three-game road stint of their own, Atlanta’s results of late haven’t been stellar, but they are carrying a bit of confidence after taking the defending Cup champions NYCFC to a draw on the trapezoid that they call a soccer field.
In what will be a rare occurrence this season, Atlanta bring into this game an average possession that exceeds Austin’s (58.5% vs 55.2%). The last time Austin played a team that sets up to dominate possession in that way? San Jose. That match very well may be the most frustrating result from the season so far which saw the Verde & Black go up two goals early before making subs, dropping deeper, and ultimately conceding two to walk out with a draw. Austin faithful will be hoping to avoid a similar fate today, but it’s hard not to see personnel issues playing a major role in how this one shapes up.
The pregame injury report lists both Romana and Cascante as questionable with injuries. Pair that with Keller and Pereira being out on card suspensions and today’s squad may be the thinnest of the season.
This is a tough week for Austin to be light on CB options as Atlanta are relentless in the attack:
58.5% possession (3rd)
1.53 G/90 (8th)
1.51 xG/90 (6th)
15.4 Shots/90 (T-1st)
459.5 Completed passes/90 (1st)
Last season, Alex Ring was pressed into the CB role three times. Over that stretch, Austin tallied one win and two losses with seven goals given up. Apart from Ring indicating he hopes that’s never the case again, his presence in the midfield would be sorely missed.
One bright spot is that the newest Verde signing, Washington Corozo was already practicing with the squad before his signing was made official, and Wolff has indicated he may be available for minutes today. Bringing in a winger with 0.43 G+A/90 from 0.36 G/90 in 2022 league play with Pumas means we actually have depth at that position for the first time since Cecilio Dominguez played his last game for Austin in early April.
Should the injury dominoes fall unfavorably for Austin, we may see something pretty wild with the lineup tonight.