Austin FC blow past league leaders Los Angeles FC 4-1 at home. Through twenty-seven games, Austin sits in second place in the Western Conference, now 6 points behind LAFC with seven games to play.
For the fifth straight match, Austin FC played the same starting 11. Los Angeles FC started Gareth Bale, his first start in Major League Soccer, at left wing lined up against Nick Lima. However, Bale would move around the front three all night.
The first half started out a semi-cagey affair, with tackles flying in from both teams. Austin were a little more pragmatic in the first half hour than they have been in recent matches. This pragmatism would pay off as Austin would strike first in 32nd minute.
Sebastián Driussi took the ball off Jesús Murillo deep in the attacking half and beat Eddie Segura on the dribble. As Driussi went past Segura, Segura elbowed Driussi in the face, somehow avoiding a red card. Diego Fagúndez would take the 25-yard free kick and curl it past Maxime Crépeau! Austin 1-0 LAFC.
The temperature of the match would continue to climb as both teams came close to full out brawl just minutes after the goal. Murillo shoved Maxi Urruti into the crowd. Urruti then stamped on Murillo’s foot on the throw-in, leading to both squads doing a whole lot of shoving.
This altercation further disjointed the first half. LAFC looked lost for ideas for the majority of the half. Austin did not look spectacular, but they looked the better of the two teams and deserved their half time lead. Austin may have even deserved more. Half time: Austin 1-0 LAFC.
Austin would double their lead just two minutes into the second half. Bale headed clear an Austin free kick, but only as far as Lima. Lima beat one defender and worked his way towards the end line on the right side. Lima chipped a cross to the near post, finding Urruti. Urruti flicked his headed effort over Crépeau into the far corner! Austin 2-0 LAFC.
Urruti scored his brace just four minutes later. Driussi attempted to find Urruti in behind the LAFC defense. Ryan Hollingshead, sliding, could not deal with the through ball which somehow found Urruti’s run. Urruti took it around the keeper and finished from a very tight angle! Austin 3-0 LAFC.
Austin were not finished yet. Driussi and Fagúndez played a give-and-go down the left wing. Fagúndez nutmegged Hollingshead to find Driussi at the corner of the six-yard box. Driussi turned inside, beat Murillo, and curled his effort into the far side netting! Austin 4-0 LAFC.
LAFC finally showed signs of life. Attacking down the left, Hollingshead attempted to find Christian Arango who took Ruben Gabrielsen out. Stuver saved the first effort from Carlos Vela. The ball popped up to Arango, who hit it off the volley and past Stuver. Austin 4-1 LAFC.
Austin pretty much shut up shop after LAFC’s goal. It was not completely smooth. Stuver did have some work to do. Arango and Kwadwo Opoku looked particularly dangerous. Austin did well to hold them silent, however.
Final Score: Austin FC 4, Los Angeles FC 1.
Next up, Austin FC stay at home to take on the Portland Timbers on Wednesday, August 31st. Portland are clinging on to 7th place in the Western Conference after beating Seattle last night, with 36 points after twenty-eight matches.
A Much Better Defensive Performance
Sloppy defensive displays have characterized Austin’s play the last month or so. Tonight’s performance was a sight for sore eyes. Nick Lima, Jon Gallagher, and Daniel Pereira played excellent matches, barely putting a foot wrong all evening. Austin took a more pragmatic approach defensively, perhaps a blueprint for how this team should play down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Supporters Shield Implications
Tonight’s result has two very obvious winners – Austin FC and the Philadelphia Union. Both clubs are now just six points behind LAFC for the Supporters Shield. Austin loss to Minnesota seems extra bitter now. Philadelphia plays twice this week, at home against both Colorado and Atlanta. Austin play at home against Portland and LAFC play away at Houston on Wednesday. The race for the Supporters Shield is far from over.
Tonight’s result may have several implications on the Western Conference Playoffs. Winning the conference is still a possibility if LAFC manage to drop more points in their last seven matches. Austin will almost certainly have a home playoff match, now 13 points clear of 5th place Real Salt Lake. More than that, Austin proved tonight that this LAFC team is not unbeatable. This may be the playbook for how to take on LAFC come playoff time.
Goal Scoring Summary
- 32’ – Diego Fagúndez (unassisted)
- 47’ – Maxi Urruti (Nick Lima)
- 51’ – Maxi Urruti (Diego Fagúndez)
- 59’ – Sebastián Driussi (Diego Fagúndez)
Los Angeles FC
- 61’ – Christian Arango (unassisted)
Man of the Match
With a goal and two assists, tonight’s Man of the Match is Diego Fagúndez.
Cover Photo Credit: Austin FC Instagram
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