MLS Playoff thoughts

Breaking down Austin's 2-1 win over Dallas to advance to the Western Final

Austin FC prevailed in the Texas Derby, Playoff edition, and they did it with solid goalkeeping, designated player excellence, and doing the dirty work in the middle of the field. Meanwhile, FC Dallas lost the game but is clearly on the right track after a 2022 season that saw them improve 20 points. ASN's Brian Sciaretta offers up his thoughts. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 24, 2022
6:50 AM

IN JUST THEIR second year on the field, Austin FC is off to the Western Conference Final after a convincing 2-1 win over FC Dallas in the Texas capital. The game was played on Sunday in front of a raucous capacity crowd at Q2 Stadium and it was a big opportunity for both teams to prove they are heading in a positive direction.

Both teams came into the game with their expected starting XI although Paxton Pomykal was on the bench and not at full form due to the hamstring issues from last weekend’s win over Minnesota.

Dallas initially weathered the initial storm and escaped the first 25 minutes unscathed. Just as they started to grow into the game, Dallas poorly defended an Austin corner kick and Moussa Djitté slammed home the game’s opening goal.

Just two minutes later, with Dallas still stunned, Austin took a 2-0 lead when MVP candidate and Golden Boot winner Sebastian Driussi made an outstanding individual play to open a shooting lane and beat Maarten Paes with a low shot.

From there, it seemed like it would be a forgone conclusion that Austin would roll to an easy victory, but FC Dallas fought their way back into the game in gaining more possession and better chances.

Alan Velasco pulled FC Dallas back within one in the 65th minute when he fired home a poorly defended play from close range. FC Dallas pushed on for the equalizer and nearly found it minutes from the end of the game but Austin keeper Brad Stuver came up with an outstanding low save with his foot to preserve the lead.

Austin eventually would prevail but the game was far closer than it was expected after Austin scored the first two goals.

Here are some thoughts on the game:


FC Dallas had a great chance


Coming into this game, the big question was how FC Dallas would respond to the first 15-20 minutes when Austin had the momentum of the crowd behind it. As with any tough and emotional road game, the visitors must weather the initial storm and then grow into the game. In this game, FC Dallas did fine in this regard. Austin had the better of chances but Dallas got through it and started to grow in to the game.

The game completely changed when Dallas poorly defended the corner kick. It was the first real serious flaw that Dallas made, and Austin made them pay. It was a complete issue of focus. From there, Austin was able to seize the momentum briefly to add a second, but the game could have been dramatically different had Dallas kept its act together in set piece defending.

Dallas found a way to make this a close game, despite it appearing it would be an easy one for Austin FC after the second goal. This Dallas team was well coached and played very well. The way the team fought back into the game was impressive.


Ring, Driussi, & Stuver deliver


Austin FC got this win when a bunch of players stepped up to make big plays. Austin checked all the boxes in that they had their best attacker raise his came, they had a central midfielder who did the dirty work, and they got great goalkeeping. These are the biggest areas needed in postseason games and Austin got it all.

Sebastian Driussi showed why he is a big-time designated player and he showed why the postseason is typically about designated players. Teams need the talent to rise to the top and make difference making plays. When all the players are raising their games, the DP’s find a way to do it better. This is why players like Sebastian Giovinco, Nicolas Lodeiro, Josef Martinez and Taty Castellanos have been the most successful players in the league. Austin FC has a difference maker at that level

Alex Ring also had a huge performance in central midfield for Austin. The Finish international both was huge in breaking up plays defensively and getting the ball into the attack to constantly put Dallas under pressure. A lot of it was dirty work, but Ring was critical to the win.

Brad Stuver had to make four saves in this game but the 87th minute save off Jader Obrien’s header was one of the biggest plays of the night and it might have won the game for Austin.


Off to LA


The Western Conference final on Sunday between LAFC and Austin FC is going to be a good one. There are a lot of themes that should add intrigue. Both teams are coming off seasons where they missed out on the playoffs and both are looking for their first appearance in MLS Cup – and one will get there. Both teams are managed by former U.S. national team players who were teammates on the international stage.

Then you have two of the best designated players in Carlos Vela and Driussi. This will be a test for both players to try to carry a team into its first ever MLS Cup.

LAFC has the edge playing at home and this will be the toughest environment that Austin has played all season long. LAFC, meanwhile, should have its best support.

There is also the issue of personnel for LAFC. Gareth Bale, is he healthy? Is he good enough right now to play a big role for LAFC? If not, is he a distraction? These kinds of issues do not necessarily help LAFC.

No matter what, Austin deserves to be in the final four of the league and while a win over LAFC would be an upset, it is certainly realistic.


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