A hopeful start to the month of May seemed to dwindle away as Austin FC left the pitch at Q2 Stadium Saturday night.
Despite a promising run of form in early May, including a two-goal performance in a draw against Portland and a 2-0 victory in a midweek U.S. Open Cup meeting with New Mexico United, Austin FC fell flat on the weekend, losing 1-0 to FC Dallas. While Austin had just beat Dallas once in their first five meetings, expectations were high for a heated Texas rivalry, yet Austin’s performance left quite a bit to be desired in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Semifinal.
Austin dealt with a multitude of changes in this weekend’s Starting XI, from finding midfield replacements to working injured players back into the squad. Jhohan Valencia got the start in central midfield as Owen Wolff prepares to feature for the United States in the U-20 World Cup. Despite questions of whether he would move back to midfield in the absence of Wolff, Alex Ring remained at the back in a configuration that featured three center backs and two wing backs.
While Maxi Urruti got the start and scored in Austin’s clash with New Mexico midweek, Josh Wolff resorted back to Gyasi Zardes up top, alongside Rodney Redes, who finally found his first goal for Austin midweek, and Emiliano Rigoni, who has continued to make steps toward success in the past few weeks. Diego Fagundez also featured on the bench after being out several weeks, but did not see any minutes in the loss.
Who is Stepping Up?
Saturday marked another match in an injury-riddled season for Austin, leaving it up to several rotation players to fill the gaps for the club in their MLS matches.
Jhohan Valencia played a pivotal role in Austin’s midfield Saturday in the absence of Owen Wolff. Valencia played 88 minutes with 40 touches, completing 23 passes and winning a game-high three tackles in midfield. It’s been a standout season for Dani Pereira thus far, but it seemed as if his partner in midfield put in a more complete standout performance in the loss.
Adam Lundqvist has seen a major increase in minutes in the Verde and Black kit since Zan Kolmanic tore his ACL in April, and the Swedish wingback put in two of his best performances of the season this week. Lundqvist played 77 minutes against Dallas and created two chances, while nearly scoring an early contender for goal of the season, as his thunderous volley was nudged over the bar in the 40th minute.
Julio Cascante had his best performance back from injury for ATX. Cascante played the full 90 minutes, completed 53 passes, including five into the final third, while also making 11 clearances and two blocks on the defensive end. Despite being beaten for a near Dallas goal in the 29th minute, Cascante was solid at the back for Austin.
If you purchase through our links, we earn a commission that will help support our content.
Who is Dropping Off?
Rodney Redes had his best performance in an Austin FC shirt Wednesday against New Mexico, but followed it up on Saturday with possibly his worst. Redes was sent off in the 54th minute after picking up his second yellow card of the match.
Frankly, neither of Redes’ challenges that led to his cards were very necessary or smart, as he wiped out a Dallas player with a slide tackle from behind and left his foot out into the shin of another to earn him a sendoff. Redes was mediocre in the match before he was booked, but his mistakes made Austin play down a man, further hindering an already-struggling attack and leaving the Verde vulnerable on defense.
It’s hard to imagine Gyasi Zardes’ performance dropping much lower than it already has this season. While he hasn’t necessarily been terrible, he just simply hasn’t done enough (if anything at all) to consider him a viable starting striker at this stage in the season. Zardes played 65 minutes in the match, only making 11 touches and providing one shot that hooked well left of goal. Zardes has two shots on target, zero goals, and zero assists in 559 minutes played for Austin this season, with his bench counterparts Maxi Urruti and Will Bruin having a goal each in a combined 467 minutes this season.
It was a questionable choice to sign another starting-caliber striker in the offseason after a terrific campaign from Urruti and an unbelievable final few performances from Moussa Djitte, and Zardes’ performances so far have done him no good in overturning some of the preseason suspicions.
Brad Stuver has been the rock of Austin’s defense for the club’s first two years of existence, but his recent performances haven’t lived up to his reputation. Stuver may have been lucky to only allow one goal to Dallas, as he was beaten a few times, including on a shot blasted off the crossbar in the first half. Stuver had a few questionable decisions, and it seemed as if he was coming out to contest almost everything in the first half. When Dallas did score, Jesus Ferreira’s shot went between Stuver’s legs, a disappointing attempt to end up in the back of the net.
While Stuver has struggled to perform over the past few matches, fans should be confident that he will return to more consistent performances as Austin finds their form again.
Overall, it was a disappointing match to lose for Austin FC, with quite a few negatives to harp on. Austin falls to 2-4-5 on the season, failing to win an MLS match since March 11, sliding to 12th in the Western Conference.
Austin will look to right the ship against the Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders on Wednesday, May 17, at 9:30pm at Lumen Field. The Verde have failed to beat the Sounders in four meetings and will need a top performance to carry some momentum into the summer and pull the club out of the depths of the Western Conference table.
Cover photo courtesy Apple TV