Austin FC now has a winning streak at two games as they Beat Toronto FC 1-0 at Q2 Stadium Saturday night.
The game looked to be a 0-0 snoozer until Gyasi Zardes scored a stoppage-time winner in the 91st minute.
Toronto FC came in as last place in the Eastern Conference and had multiple starters out of their lineup. It was the first match between the two squads in Austin history (minus one preseason match).
ATXFC now has 16 points on the season which puts them over the playoff line at 9th place in the Western Conference.
The Starting XI saw some changes from Wednesday night as Maxi Urruti started over Zardes, Rodney Redes returned from suspension and saw the start over Emiliano Rigoni, Sofiane Djeffal over Jhojan Valencia in the midfield, Nick Lima over Adam Lundqvist, and Julio Cascante was back from concussion protocol as he got the start over Aleksandar Radovanović. Cascante returned to wearing the captain’s armband.
The squad saw some rotations on Saturday night as they have had midweek games and are in the middle of playing five games in 14 days.
Who Is Stepping Up?
Alex Ring was impressive throughout the night. He was clearing the back, making interceptions, but most impressed with him completing seven out of 10 long balls.
My friend who I took to the match, does not watch soccer regularly and they said mid-game, “That #8 is good.” And I have to agree with that simple take.
Julio Cascante also played well in his return at the back. He has five recoveries on the night, and won three out of three ground duels throughout the match. It is great to have his leadership and ability back on this team.
Sofiane Djeffal was very active in his first start for the club. He had 51 touches on the night and had an 83% passing accuracy. He looked confident out there, and it makes me feel great that we have depth in the midfield.
Nick Lima had a good match as he created three chances throughout the night on offense, and recovered the ball four times on defense. Active on both ends. Lima is showing he is still a solid option for Jon Gallagher or Adam Lundkvist.
Lunqvist came on in the 75th minute and was a difference maker immediately. Lundy through in the cross that led to the Zardes goal. He had been really consistent these last few matches. He seems to have secured a spot in the starting rotation when it is not being rotated.
I am going to end the Stepping Up category by talking about Gyasi Zardes who now has two headers in two games resulting in victories. He now has the most goals on the team from the striker position. Has Zardes secured the starting spot up top?
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Who Is Dropping Off?
Leo Väisänen seemed to have a bit of a rare off night. The glaring stat i saw was he was only two for seven on long balls, which he is typically more accurate than not.
I am not too worried as he has been consistent this season for the Verde and Black.
Dani Pereira picked up a yellow card in the 28th minute. This worries me, because in the 2022 season the team had a bit of issues with Dani picking up cards resulting in suspensions. I don’t want him to fall back into this trend.
Maxi Urruti failed to get the goal, even though he was really close in the 15th minute when his shot bounced off of the left post. With Zardes game-winner, it feels like maybe the Urruti/Zardes debate is put to rest?
Austin FC hosts in the next round of the U.S. Open Cup at Q2 Stadium on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. against the Chicago Fire before returning to MLS play next Saturday in Houston against the Dynamo in a Copa Tejas match.
It should be interesting to see who Josh Wolff rotates these next few matches to keep players healthy and ready.
Let us know your predictions in the comments below.
Cover photo courtesy Apple TV