LOS ANGELES (KXAN) — A stifling LAFC defense didn’t allow Austin FC to create much of anything offensively, and Verde’s dream season ended 3-0 in the Major League Soccer Western Conference finals at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday.
LAFC scored once in the first half on a Cristian Arango header in the 29th minute, then tacked on two in the second half. After entering the match in the 61st minute, Austin FC’s Maxi Urruti headed a corner into his own net one minute into his shift to give LAFC a 2-0 lead.
MORE THAN THE SCORE: Stay up to date on sports stories like these, and sign up for our More than the Score sports newsletter at kxan.com/newsletters
“LAFC was the better team today,” Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff said. “Two teams want to get control of the game in different ways, and they were able to. They deserve it. We wish them luck in the final.”
The home side put no doubt in the result after Kawadwo Opoku, also a substitute in the second half, caught a fortunate bounce after a clearance attempt. Opoku broke from his defender and slotted a low shot to the right of Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver in the 81st minute.
Austin had one shot on goal and seven overall. LAFC fired off 22 shots, 10 on goal. Stuver made seven saves in the loss. LAFC has 11 corner kicks to Austin FC’s five, and LAFC held a slight advantage in possession 51%-49%.
LAFC probably should have led by more than one goal at halftime with how relentless they were in attacking Austin FC. Stuver made tremendous saves to keep LAFC off the board other than the Arango goal, but LAFC was in Verde’s area so much that a goal was bound to happen.
The play that led to Arango’s goal was somewhat a microcosm of the entire match. Stuver rushed up to the edge of the penalty to retrieve a loose ball in the 28th minute, but LAFC’s Denis Bouanga came flying in and got his head to it and controlled it with Stuver way out of goal. A mad scramble by Austin defenders got the ball away from the goal after LAFC attempted a couple of shots, but they sent it out over the end line for a corner kick.
LAFC’s Carlos Vela took the corner and hit a bending service near the 6-yard box where Arango was waiting to put LAFC on the board.
Stuver made seven saves and kept Austin FC in the game for as long as he possibly could. He was saved by the post in the 17th minute on a Jose Cifuentes shot, but he stood tall amid an onslaught of attempts from LAFC.
LAFC will host the Philadelphia Union in next week’s MLS Cup Final. Philly topped last year’s MLS Cup champions NYCFC 3-1 to win the Eastern Conference title.
It was an incredible season for Austin FC in just its second year in MLS. The club improved 10 places in the conference table from 2021 to this season, leaping from 12th to 2nd in the regular season. In their first playoff appearance, Verde defeated Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks in the first round and then turned back Copa Tejas rival FC Dallas 2-1 in the conference semifinals. Both matches were at Q2 Stadium.
“I’m really proud of this group,” Wolff said. “We’ll continue to get better as an organization and make this team better for next year. As disappointing as today is, there’s just so much pride in what we’ve been able to establish in two years.”
Full time: LAFC 3, Austin FC 0. The dream season is over for Verde, but what a year it was.
90′: Urruti given a yellow card for a bad foul. Five minutes of stoppage time being added
81′: LAFC pretty much puts this one away. The ball took an awkward bounce after a Fagundez clearance attempt, and Opoku broke away from his defender to fire a shot at goal. He beats Stuver low to the right. LAFC 3, Austin FC 0
80′: Austin FC finally puts a shot on goal, but Julio Cascante’s header off a corner kick is saved with relative ease by Maxime Crepeau.
77′: Sebastian Mendez comes on for LAFC, replacing Carlos Vela.
72′: Felipe Martins comes in for Dani Pereira, and the Austin bench is issued a yellow card for arguing, presumably about the previous decision to not award Austin a penalty kick after the VAR review.
71′: Cristian Arango comes out of the match for LAFC, replaced by Kwadwo Opoku
70′: VAR says no penalty kick will be given after the check. Tough break for Austin FC.
69′: The center official calls on VAR to check and see if Diego Fagundez was fouled in the penalty area earlier, and the reply shows the LAFC defender stepped on his foot, so we’ll see what happens.
62′: After just coming into the game, Austin FC’s Maxi Urruti was trying to defend the corner from Vela and the ball glances off his head for an own goal. Brutal. LAFC 2, Austin FC 0
Urruti and Ethan Finlay both came into the match, and Djitte and Rigoni came off.
60′: Arango finds himself in a ton of space, but his shot is right at Stuver who ushers it out again.
57′: Stuver makes another save on a close-range shot by LAFC’s Ryan Hollingshead. It goes out for a LAFC corner kick.
54′: LAFC’s Carlos Vela is shown a yellow card for a late slide tackle on Ruben Gabrielsen.
50′: Austin FC gets a couple of corner kicks early in the second half but can’t convert either of them. They did, however, register a shot. It wasn’t on goal, but that’s progress, at least.
Halftime: LAFC 1, Austin 0. With all the chances LAFC had in the first half, Austin FC is very fortunate to be down just one goal heading into the break. LAFC’s defense has been terrific and hasn’t allowed Austin FC to take a shot, let alone one on goal. Stuver has made four saves to keep Verde in it. As we all know, however, Austin FC has a knack for coming back from deficits, so maybe once the coaching staff makes adjustments for the second half, we could see a different Verde team.
45+2′: Austin FC gets its first corner kick of the match but can’t turn it into a scoring chance as Djitte is whistled for a foul.
45′: Four minutes of stoppage time has been added
43′: Cifuentes takes another shot from the top of the penalty area, and again, Stuver parries it away.
42′: Stuver called on again to stop a shot, this one by Vela at close range. LAFC’s Ilie Sanchez played a beautiful ball to Vela, who made a 15-20 yard run to collect it in the penalty area and take a chance at goal. That’s LAFC’s fifth shot on goal
40′: LAFC earns its fifth corner of the match and Austin FC hasn’t even taken a shot. One-way traffic in the first half
34′: Emiliano Rigoni runs into LAFC’s Diego Palacios and Palacios was down on the field for a while. He’s back up and was checked for a concussion and cleared, it appears.
32′: Austin FC’s Nick Lima goes in the book for a yellow card after he fouled LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta.
29′: LAFC goal. Cristian Arango puts his head on a corner kick by Vela and deposited it in the upper left corner. Arango got away from his defender and made that goal look routine. LAFC 1, Austin FC 0
28′: Near disaster as Stuver ventures out of the box and Bouanga heads it down toward an empty net, but a scramble in front of the net by Austin defenders play it out for a corner
20′: Stuver makes an easy safe on Carlos Vela’s shot from the right side, but it still goes to show how much LAFC is playing in Austin’s half.
17′: LAFC’s Jose Cifuentes hits the post at close range, and then a scramble for the loose ball in the box results in a LAFC foul and the chance is gone. LAFC has been putting pressure on Stuver and the Austin FC defense for e early portions of the half.
15′: A free kick by LAFC from about 25 yards misses everything and Austin FC takes possession
14′: LAFC has a chance erased by Cascante and Ring after Bouanga and Arango take the ball in the box. Cascante poked it away and Ring cleared it.
10′: Both teams still getting a feel for the game and outside of Arango’s earlier chance, not much else has gone on.
7′: Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver makes a save on a Cristian Arango shot.
Match start: You can hear the cheers of “Dale! Dale! Dale ATX!” through the broadcast. LAFC takes possession to start the match and here we go.
2:10 p.m.: Moussa Djitte gets the start at striker again for Verde as he did against FC Dallas and scored the match’s first goal. Emiliano Rigoni will start on the right wing and Dani Pereira gets the nod in central midfield beside the captain, Alex Ring.
2 p.m.: The official kickoff time for the match is 2:18 p.m. as the teams finish their pregame warmups.