Austin FC overturns early 2-0 deficit, beats Salt Lake in shootout

  • Austin FC became the first team in Major League Soccer history to win four times in a season after trailing by two goals.
  • Verde trailed Real Salt Lake 2-0 after just 15 minutes, but Sebastian Driussi scored twice in regular time to equalize and another in the shootout.
  • Goaltender Brad Stuver, who wasn’t very busy for the first 120 minutes, held on with two crucial saves in a 3-1 shootout.

Even before Josh Wolff took to the podium for his post-match press conference, he heard the club’s announcement that Austin FC had just become the only team in Major League Soccer history. to have won four times in a single season after trailing by two goals.

“Hmmm,” the second-year head coach said with a smirk, “That’s kind of our trademark.”

One of them, for sure.

That’s not the only thing that defines this young MLS franchise in its second season.

Verde is also widely credited for having arguably the league’s best player in scoring machine Sebastián Driussi and one of its best goalkeepers in super-flexible Brad Stuver. Not to mention an overdose of resilience and the best fan support in the country.

The second-seeded Black and Green definitely needed a lot of two of their stars as they combined to hold off seventh-seeded Real Salt Lake on Sunday afternoon and win 3-1 in a shootout after that the game was tied at 2-2 after 120 minutes. game which included the two 15-minute overtime periods.

Clearly, an Austin FC team that became the 27th member of the league via expansion in 2021 and excelled off the field, if not on, was making its playoff debut in the MLS Cup and wanted that it lasts as long as possible, win or lose. Goodness knows, it took enough shots, with 38 attempts on net, just five shy of a league record set by San Jose in 2019.

But a loss would have been heartbreaking for the team and that energetic fan base that filled the Q2 stadium for the 35th consecutive time, as Austin were clearly the most improved team in the league with a dramatic turnaround that included a win net of 25 points after the disastrous inaugural season.

Fan Culture, Community Awareness: How Austin FC excelled in just two seasons

“We found a way to win,” Wolff said. “Win and move on.”

But not before much angst because Austin had to catch up, as it so often has, when RSL’s Sergio Cordova scored two goals, one from a penalty when surprise starter Jhojan Valencia surrendered guilty of a handball, in the first 15 minutes of play.

Do not worry. Verde has trailed in 22 of his 35 games and has won or tied 11.

So after falling 2-0 down almost before the sold-out crowd filled the seats in the first 15 minutes of play, Austin weathered the storm and now advances to the Conference Semi-Finals. West next Sunday night against the Monday winner of Dallas FC and Minnesota.

“I keep seeing those guys come back,” said Stuver, who had two incredibly athletic blocks and nearly a third in the shootout. “We lost a lot two. We lost a man and still won 1-0. This is a battle-tested group. We lost 1-0, and I said it wouldn’t shake us. We lost 2-0 and said it wouldn’t shake us. These guys are strong mentally.

Tenacity has carried Austin far and earned him eight road wins this season – the club also won eight at home in the regular season – but he could have easily been knocked out in this MLS format winning or coming home without a punch. offensive. .

He did it with two goals from Driussi – not counting his successful shot to start the shootout, followed by tries on the mark from Diego Fagúndez and Emiliano Rigoni. Of course, it’s not breaking news in these parts, as the Argentine midfielder has taken a late step to be MLS MVP, although some believe he could finish second behind the ousted goalscorer of Nashville, Hany Mukhtar.

After:Chemistry between backs Nick Lima, Jon Gallagher on Austin FC defence, offense surges

“Sebastián scored seven goals today, some of which were called up,” a deadpan Wolff said of the unlucky Verde, who had a staggering 38 shots on goal as well as 59 crosses. “That’s why he’s the MVP. He’s been the MVP all year. I don’t see how it could be any other way.”

Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver hugs midfielder Diego Fagúndez after Fagúndez scored a successful penalty against Real Salt Lake in a playoff opener win at Q2 Stadium on Sunday.  After finishing the match tied 2-2, Austin advanced 3-1 on penalties.

Even if he ends up short in the already completed voting, he would be content to win the Cup in Austin FC’s second year of existence. Besides his three goals on Sunday, he finished the year with a whopping 22 goals and seven assists in the regular season, although the team rested him a bit due to a stubborn knee and addiction to the club towards him.

So did he feel more joy or relief?

“Obviously I’m glad we reached the next round of the playoffs,” Driussi said through an interpreter. “But I’m really tired now.”

Since arriving from a Russian club in St. Petersburg, he has scored 29 goals in a season and a half. Thanks to its value, Austin has been a totally different team than a year ago, when it had just nine wins to finish second-to-last in MLS. He signaled change from the start when he won his first two games with five goals in each game to beat FC Cincinnati and Inter Miami, two clubs that also qualified for the playoffs.

Austin might have found a role model in Real Salt Lake, which for the second straight year clinched a playoff berth as the seventh seed and reached the Western Finals last season before losing. Austin seems to have a lot of that same magic and muscle. But for Driussi and Stuver’s brilliance and resilience, the home 11 could have pulled out of the playoffs in the first round.

Caesar, Austin FC fan

One-on-one with Austin FC’s Josh Wolff:Paddleboarding, Zoom recruiting and sophomore success

“I don’t think about losing,” said Wolff, who inexplicably isn’t one of the three finalists for Coach of the Year honors. “We established who we were early on and have been pretty consistent all year. We may have dipped to third (in the West) for half a second, but it’s been a great year.

Losing would not have tainted an otherwise remarkable season. But Sunday’s comeback served to validate Austin’s status as one of the league’s top five teams and hastened expectations of what might be possible.

It’s very clear that his city believes in the club as he shows up regularly. Half an hour after Rigoni, the mid-year acquisition who hadn’t scored a regulation goal since joining the club, curled a shot into the net for a 3-1 lead on penalties and Stuver helped force RSL’s Tate Schmitt to send his offering high over the crossbar to seal the result, the Q2 crazies went wild. Of course, they don’t shout for their team so much as they roar.

Wolff, for his part, said he likes the decibel level as well as the sudden death model that MLS has adopted because “it puts the advantage where it should. If you win (enough), you are home.

And the league knows what that means in a place that sold out in five minutes for that first round of the playoffs. In 18 home matches this year, the team went an impressive 9-3 with six draws.

Let’s just assume Austin will start 2-0. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?

Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver, right, is mobbed by teammates after securing a playoff win over Real Salt Lake with a 3-1 penalty shootout advantage Sunday at Q2 Stadium.