Through four games, Austin FC has looked like anything but an expansion club. Against teams many experts believed to be Western Conference contenders, the new kids on the block have more than held their own and come away with a pair of victories.
On Saturday, Los Verde came out flat and uninspired during their fifth consecutive road match to start the season. For the first time in the 2021 MLS season, the team looked like a group of players who hadn’t played together very long, and it ended in a 2-0 loss to the LA Galaxy.
Austin FC missing two key players in Alex Ring and Jon Gallagher
Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff had no choice but to change up his lineup for Saturday’s matchup against the LA Galaxy with captain Alex Ring not making the trip due to his red card from the previous week in Kansas City.
While Wolff prepared the game plan accounting for Ring’s absence, the team’s offensive attack took a big hit late in the week when forward Jon Gallagher suffered an injury. Gallagher has been the spark early in the season, coming off the bench. Because of his energy and ability to get shots on goal, Wolff rewarded the Irishman last week with his first start of the season.
“He had a little bit of an issue during the week,” Wolff said in the postgame press conference. “Out of being cautious, we just think it made sense to obviously not include him in this travel and this game. And we’ll see how he is when we get back. But certainly his pace, his energy could have been useful.”
First-half struggle highlighted by Brad Stuver PK save on Chicharito
The absence of both Gallagher and Ring was apparent from the opening kick. The Austin offensive attack was nonexistent in the first half. Wolff said as much in the postgame conference:
“It was an unusual first half. There were moments where we had decent control, but we weren’t creating any dangerous chances. That’s the frustrating part.”
Wolff said his big takeaway from that opening half was a dramatic dropoff in energy:
“The tempo, the pace of the ball, our positioning could be better. Having a little bit more positioning in and around the penalty box to get behind the line and play through them and create some chances in a variety of ways. … I think the energy level was off. The running was off. Our dynamic wasn’t its normal self. We’ll have to look into that.”
The lone highlight of the half came in the 26th minute when LA superstar Chicharito took a penalty kick, but Austin keeper Brad Stuver denied him with a lunging dive to his left and a strong one-handed save to keep the match scoreless.
Austin FC play better second half but miss opportunities
Austin FC came out with a different mindset and different players in the second half. Kekuta Manneh provided a spark off the bench and had a couple of good chances to tie the score but missed.
“Kekuta is one of those individual players that’s unbalancing when he gets the ball at his feet,” Wolff said. “I think he had a couple of good chances. I think that one at the top of the box he’d like to have back. We’ve seen him take that in training and delivered that into the back of the net. He brought energy.”
That second-half energy still wasn’t enough as Austin lost for the second time this season in LA by a 2-0 score. With the return of Ring and possibly Gallagher next week, Los Verde look to have more energy and hopefully get back on the winning track in Nashville.