AUSTIN (KXAN) — The best in the West face off on national TV at Q2 Stadium on Friday.
Austin FC takes on LAFC at 7 p.m. on ESPN, and while the visitors are well ahead of Verde in the conference standings, they haven’t beaten the hosts this season.
Austin FC picked up a 2-1 win over LAFC at Banc of California Stadium on May 18, handing LAFC its only home loss of the season so far. Since then, LAFC has been red-hot. In 15 matches since the loss to Verde, LAFC is 12-1-2 which includes a 7-match winning streak and has sent them rocketing to the top of not just the conference, but the head of the Supporters’ Shield table for the league’s best record.
LAFC is nine points clear of Austin in the West standings, 57-48, but both clubs are coming off losses in their last matches — LAFC’s the more puzzling.
San Jose, 12th in the conference standings, picked off LAFC 2-1 on Aug. 20 behind a Cade Cowell goal in the 77th minute. LAFC will be without midfielder Ilie Sanchez against Austin after he received two yellow cards in that match.
Meanwhile, Verde lost 2-1 on the road to Minnesota United on Aug. 20. The win lifted the Loons into fourth place in the conference, and if the season ended now, they’d receive a first-round bye in the playoffs. Austin has been one of the best road teams in MLS this season, but midfielder Ethan Findlay said the club “didn’t deserve three points with the performance we put out.”
“We can’t sit here and feel sorry for ourselves,” Findlay said after the match with Minnesota. “We’ve got a short week, and we’ve got the best team in the league coming up on Friday.”
LAFC has made its way to the top similar to how Verde has — putting the ball in the net. Both have scored 55 goals this year, and both have spread the scoring around to several players. For LAFC, Cristian Arango leads the way with 12 goals, but the always-dangerous Carlos Vela has had a hand in 17 goals, scoring eight with nine assists. Josie Cifuentes and Kwadwo Opoku each have seven goals Ryan Hollingshead has four.
Gareth Bale, LAFC’s newest prized signee who last played for Real Madrid in La Liga, has scored twice in five matches. At 33 years old, Bale previously starred for Real Madrid, Tottenham in the English Premier League and for the Wales National Team, who qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Austin FC has a new signee of its own, and he’s eligible to play Friday. Emiliano Rigoni, who was formally introduced as a Verde member Monday, comes to town amid high expectations to make sure the club goes deep in the playoffs.
Rigoni said he “wants to add on to what Austin already has,” and head coach Josh Wolff said he hopes Rigoni plays in all of Austin’s eight remaining matches before the playoffs begin.
“I’ll play anywhere Josh wants me to,” Rigoni said through an interpreter.
How to watch Austin FC vs. LAFC
7 p.m., Q2 Stadium, Austin, Texas
TV: ESPN; ESPN Deportes (Spanish)
Radio: KASE-FM Alt 97.5; KLQB-FM, 104.3 HD2 (Spanish)