How They Did It In 2022
With a defense that was at times unreliable, Austin relied heavily on their ability to score goals in order to win games in 2022. From blowouts, to one-score winners, there were a fair share of memorable goals, but how exactly did they do it?
With the technical ability of players like Diego Fagundez and Sebastian Driussi, it’s not surprising that Austin scored the 5th-most goals from open play last season. Even with that volume, goals from open play made up 66% of the team’s output. That was just the 10th highest percentage in the league – demonstrating that Austin were able to find goals in all phases of the game.
What may be a surprise is that 26.2% of the Verde’s goals came off set pieces. That was the 4th highest share in MLS, and only Nashville scored more times from a dead ball. Austin were also one of the better counter-attacking teams, an indication that Josh Wolff’s emphasis on more direct play paid dividends in phases of the game outside of just when the CBs were building from the back.
In the East, 2022 surprise turned 2023 contender, FC Cincinnati, had some consistent good luck by being on the positive end of 4 own goals.
Philly and LAFC, last year’s finalists, were well-rounded in how they found the net. Neither team had a significant portion of their goal tally come from any phase of the game when compared to the league as a whole.
RSL weren’t a particularly high scoring team last year, and that trend (at least so far) has carried over into 2023. That’ll be welcome news to Austin whose center back woes got even worse after Amro Tarek capped a tough night on the job by picking up a leg injury. More good news may be found in the ways that RSL scored last season. According to WhoScored, Salt Lake scored just a single counter-attack goal in 2022 MLS comps. Directness has killed the Verde defense this year, and less tempo should give Austin time to get players behind the ball regardless of who lines up in the back.
Something to keep an eye out for will be set piece defending. While the Utah side didn’t blow the roof off MLS with their dead ball prowess, they were in the top half of the league. For everything Ring brings in defense, we’ll be missing the height of Canscante or even Keller should we employ the dual Finns strategy once again.
RSL has possessed the ball for just 42.5% of their games this season. That’s not an aberration either; they were one of the least ball retentive teams in the league last season as well. As we looked at last season, games in which Austin completely dominated the ball were not always the most successful. This matchup should give Wolff ample time to analyze just how well the new shape is working in possession.
We’ll see just how many rotations are made ahead of Tuesday’s return fixture against Violette, but with the Verde & Black returning to the comforts of Q2 midweek we may see a strong side in both.