The Copa Tejas Rubber Match
Today is arguably Austin FC’s most important match in their short history. With three of four Copa Tejas games concluded, anything other than a loss sees the second year side take home the club’s first piece of silverware.
Statistically, Copa Tejas looks every bit the two horse race that the standings would suggest. Outside of pass completion percentage, the two frontrunners are clear of Houston on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Since Austin’s last match with FC Dallas, the southern Oklahoma side has been on a cold streak, picking up just two of twelve potential points. Over that stretch there have been two notable statistical trends. The first is that the Verde & Black have now leapt the Frisco side in goals against. While Austin’s xGA would suggest that they should be giving up one of the highest goal totals in the league, the opposition is finding the net at a much lower place to the tune of 1.15 GA — good for 6th. Previously nine spots worse than Frisco, the role reversal since the previous meeting is due both to Austin trending in a positive direction (0.75 GA in the last four games) and Frisco trending negatively (1.75 GA).
The second noticeable change since the last clash has been Frisco’s inability to put the ball in the back of the net. In the games since their trip to Austin, they have just four goals, one of which was a moonshot from Jesus Ferreira against LAFC. The 1 G/90 over that stretch is well below their season average of 1.5.
Stylistically, each squad has developed different approaches to the attack. FC Dallas would much prefer to play more intricately through the middle. Jesus Ferreira’s positioning will be something to watch in this match. In his efforts to find the game, you can see him dropping incredibly deep, sometimes 30 or 40 feet from goal even as Dallas are pushing forward. That desire to get involved has led Frisco to the third most short passes in the league but often leaves them without a target in the middle — highlighted by the fact that their progressive passes and successful crosses drop off steeply.
Austin FC, only the other hand, have made themselves into probably the most dangerous team from wide — boasting the league’s top crossing grade according to PFF_FC. That distinction is being driven in large part by the Verde’s two starting wingers. Both Fagundez and Finlay are now in the top 70% of all wingers in assists per game.
On the other side of the ball, FC Dallas do most of their tackling in their own third. Their biggest strength is in their on-ball defending — tackling 48% of the opposition’s dribble attempts, a number that puts them T-1 alongside Charlotte. That shouldn’t pose too much of an issue to the Verde. Other teams with above-average tackling against the dribble include Orlando, Atlanta, and Colorado — none of whom gave Austin any particular trouble.
Dallas rotated quite a bit on Wednesday in preparation for today’s derby — waiting until the second half to bring on Arriola, Pomykal, and Hedges. Austin, on one additional day of rest, opted for something closer to their normal look in their match against Houston. This feels like too big of a match for something completely unexpected out of both managers to start, but who are we going to see off the bench? Is this the day we see Washington Corozo? Will Teen Wolff make a second half appearance at RB? Who will take their chances to create a new chapter of Austin FC history?