AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Copa Tejas cup will make its way down I-35 after Austin FC came back from a one goal deficit to tie up its match against FC Dallas. Draw goes to Verde.
There was quite a bit on the line for Austin FC for a mid-season match: A six-match unbeaten streak, a potential Copa Tejas title, a more solidified position at the top of Major League Soccer’s Western Conference — but perhaps most importantly to Austin — another chance to beat Dallas for the first time in their short rivalry.
Austin FC announced Head Coach Josh Wolff would not be managing the match due to MLS health and safety protocols Saturday. Assistant Coach Davy Arnaud stepped in.
“Per MLS guidelines, Wolff will self-isolate and miss today’s away match against FC Dallas. Wolff will re-join the team once he receives clearance from Club medical staff,” the club said.
Dallas was the first to find the net Saturday, roughly 40 minutes into the game. The clubs would go to the locker room 1-0 at half despite several opportunities for the visitors.
The teams battled until about 10 minutes left in the match when Austin FC tied it up with a Diego Fagúndez goal, his fifth of the season. Austin FC almost made it two in a row, but incredible back-to-back saves from Maarten Paes kept the game tied to end of regulation.
Heading into the match
Coming off a 3-1 win Tuesday over the Houston Dynamo at Q2 Stadium, Austin FC hit the road again in a packed part of its schedule that has them playing three matches in a week’s time. After losing all three matches to FC Dallas in 2021, Austin FC finally got a result against them July 16 in a wild 2-2 draw at Q2 Stadium.
“Dallas is a team we haven’t beat, and that’s fresh on our guys’ minds,” Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff said during Thursday’s media availability. “It’ll be tough to take them down in their stadium, but it would be nice to deliver our fans a trophy.”
Expanded to MLS teams when Austin FC joined in 2021, the Copa Tejas trophy was created by fans and is essentially for bragging rights, but it’s still a source of motivation. FC Dallas won it last season, and they could have won it again with a victory over Austin FC on their home pitch at Toyota Stadium in Frisco. However, a draw or win for Austin FC, which was the end result, and the cup comes to Central Texas.
“It’s a fan-created trophy, and we want to do well by our fans,” Wolff said. “They’re incredible, and our entire stadium is packed every game. We have much appreciation for that. The community has embraced us tremendously.”
Austin FC has seven points in the Copa Tejas standings, two wins over Houston and a draw against Dallas, while Dallas has five points with a win over Houston plus two draws. Each Texas club plays its counterparts twice during the season, and Saturday’s tilt is the last time Lone Star State teams square off against each other in the 2022 regular season.
Moving in different directions
While Austin FC’s has been on a hot streak with four consecutive wins during its 6-match unbeaten streak, FC Dallas hasn’t won since it beat Orlando City FC on May 28. FC Dallas lost Wednesday to New York City FC 1-0 and is 0-3-3 since its last win, but that doesn’t concern Wolff. He understands how good FC Dallas is despite the recent results.
“They’re creating a number of chances, and the margins for winning and losing in this league are very small,” Wolff said. “We’re not underselling them, we haven’t beat them yet. Our guys are well-aware of that. Dallas is a very good team, and they should have gotten something out of the game the other night.”
FC Dallas has plenty of offensive punch with the duo of Paul Arriola and Jesus Ferriera. Ferriera is tied for second in MLS with 11 goals and Arriola isn’t far behind with eight. Both played for the U.S. men’s national team June 11 against Grenada at Q2 Stadium, and Ferriera went bonkers with four goals in a 5-0 romp. Arriola assisted on one of the goals that night.
For Austin FC, its all-star didn’t have to score in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Houston, but of course, it wouldn’t hurt if Sebastian Driussi’s attacking talents were showcased Saturday.
Alex Ring, Maxi Urruti and Diego Fagundez all scored against the Dynamo, but the catalyst to Austin’s tremendous season thus far remains Driussi, who also has 11 goals this season.
Finlay’s making the most of his return to starting 11
By his own admission, Ethan Finlay “wasn’t being aggressive enough,” when he was put on the bench after a May 14 match against Real Salt Lake.
“It was obviously disappointing, but at the same time, I wasn’t contributing as much as I’d like to,” he said. “The change was somewhat warranted, and at that point, it was about finding form, and you do that through training.”
Since his return to the starting lineup July 4, Finlay has been terrific. He scored and assisted against Colorado and Atlanta, and also notched an assist against Houston. He played 81 minutes against Houston and had an 86.7% passing rate.
“It was about refocusing in on what made me successful before and the reasons why I was brought in,” Finlay said. “I’ve been able to feel more comfortable with the guys around me, and I think they feel more comfortable around me as well, and we’ve seen those connections.”
Straight to the top
Austin FC has played 20 matches this year and has 40 points to show for it, and that’s not just the best in the Western Conference — it’s the best in the entire MLS. They’ve won 12 times thus far, improving from nine from the club’s inaugural season last year.
A win against FC Dallas would keep them at the top regardless of how LAFC does Sunday against Nashville. LAFC enters weekend play with 39 points and will still have a game in hand after Sunday since it didn’t play a midweek game as Austin did.
How to watch the match
Austin FC vs. FC Dallas, 8 p.m., Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
TV: The CW Austin (OTA channel 54), Unimas (Spanish broadcast)
Radio: ALT 97.5, TUDN Radio, KLQB 104.3 HD2 (Spanish)
Streaming: AustinFC.com, Austin FC smartphone app; Univision.com, Univision app (Spanish)