AUSTIN (KXAN) — Violette AC came into Austin shorthanded with a 3-goal advantage from the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League opening round and withstood an onslaught to advance in the tournament 3-2 on aggregate Tuesday at Q2 Stadium.
Austin FC midfielder Sebastian Driussi scored twice for a 2-0 match win, but Verde needed a third to force penalty kicks, and another would have given them the win outright when combining the scores from the two matches. Violette AC won the first match on March 7, 3-0 in the Dominican Republic, where five Violette starters were left behind for Tuesday’s game due to visa issues. Violette had to sign four new players to field a full team for the game and only had three substitutes available.
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Austin fired 35 shots to Violette’s six, and Verde peppered Violette’s goal with 10 shots on goal. Violette AC goalkeeper Paul Decius played tremendously making eight saves with two coming in the final minute to preserve the win. He stopped an Emiliano Rigoni header with a quick parry 11 minutes into stoppage time, and then was called on a minute later to keep Driussi from a hat trick. Decius pushed aside Driussi’s left-footed shot from close range, ending Austin’s final scoring chance and sending the Violette squad into euphoria.
“It’s disappointing to lose out and getting no goals away was damaging,” Austin Fc head coach Josh Wolff said. “There were many opportunities tonight to put more on the board, and of course it feels like an opportunity lost because we aren’t advancing, but we’ll learn from it.
Putting themselves behind the proverbial 8-ball in the first match was just too much to overcome. Violette executed its gameplan by putting 8-9 players in the penalty area to defend against a firing squad from Austin attackers. If the shots weren’t saved by the keeper, it’s because they never got there with the defenders packed in so tight to block shooting lanes.
Austin had two goals disallowed in the first half, one due to an offside call and another due to a handball violation on Ethan Finlay that was decided by the video assistant referee. That was the first of two VAR rulings not to go Austin FC’s way. The second came on what appeared to be a clear foul against Austin forward Gyasi Zardes in the penalty area. At that moment, had the official awarded the penalty kick, it could have tied the aggregate score 3-3. Alas, the referee took about six minutes to come to his decision of no penalty.
“We didn’t capitalize on many, many opportunities, but we have to pick ourselves up,” Wolff said. “We’re two years into our build and there’s growth that needs to happen. We didn’t do well enough in these two games to advance.”
Emiliano Rigoni and Alex Ring assisted on the Driussi goals, and it was the first-ever goal contribution for Rigoni for Verde in his short career with the club.
The loss eliminates Austin FC from its first-ever CONCACAF Champions League tournament. Verde is back in Major League Soccer action in Houston against the Dynamo at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.