FC Dallas and Austin FC have a shot at redemption on Saturday as the rivals face off for the inaugural MLS edition of the Copa Tejas.
The sides have endured disappointing campaigns and occupy the bottom two spots in the Western Conference, with Dallas one point better off than their neighbors.
Both teams could yet end the season with silverware, though, as the Copa Tejas – awarded to the side with the most points from intra-Texas matches – is on the line this weekend.
Austin require a victory to lift the trophy, while a draw would be enough for Dallas to prevail on home soil.
“Anytime you’re playing for a trophy, it’s a great opportunity,” said Austin head coach Josh Wolff. “The Copa Tejas has been talked about, and now we’re in a position to go win it.
“We certainly should have plenty of reminders as to what it’s going to look like in Dallas. They’re a good team.
“Going there to win is going to be our objective, for our players to keep building momentum and good performance, but for our fans, to bring a trophy here in our first season.”
Austin scored and won for the first time in three games last weekend with a 2-1 win over Houston Dynamo, a result that eliminated their opponents from Copa Tejas contention.
Dallas enter the contest at Toyota Stadium winless in 10 matches since the end of August, most recently losing 2-1 to MLS Cup Playoffs hopefuls Real Salt Lake.
The Toros let a one-goal lead slip in the final 10 minutes, but interim head coach Marco Ferruzzi rejected the notion that his side try harder when it comes to facing the top sides.
“Professional athletes are not out there to spoil someone else’s season; they’re out there to compete,” he said. “They’re not doing it for me, they’re doing it because they’re pros.
“They want to win, rather than to, say, spoil San Jose’s season, or to muck up LAFC or Minnesota – they’re out there to play. They deserve that respect.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
FC Dallas – Matt Hedges
Dallas have been reliant on Ricardo Pepi and Jesus Ferreira for their goals this season, the pair contributing directly to 31 of their side’s 44 goals this season. There was a different name on the scoresheet last time out, with Hedges scoring his first goal in two years. Clean sheets may be the defender’s bread and butter, but every goal counts at the other end.
Austin FC – Sebastian Driussi
Driussi scored Austin’s all-important second goal in their win over Houston and now has four goals in 14 appearances since arriving in late July. Indeed, since being integrated into the side, Austin have averaged 1.38 goals per game, compared to 0.72 in their opening 18 matches.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– FC Dallas won each of their first two meetings with Austin, winning 2-0 at home on August 7 and 5-3 in Austin on August 29. A win or draw would make FC Dallas (eight points) the winner of the mini-league between the Texas sides, while Austin (six points) would finish top with a win (Houston have eight points).
– Dallas saw their winless run extend to 10 matches (D4 L6) after conceding a pair of late goals in a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. Dallas have recorded just two longer winless runs in club history, going 11 straight in June-August 2013 and 13 straight in April-July 2012.
– Austin are coming off a 2-1 win over the Dynamo and are looking for consecutive wins for the first time since April 24-May 1, the first two wins in team history. Since then, Austin have followed each of their previous six victories with a loss.
– Dallas have lost five of their last seven home matches (D2), including the last two in a row. Prior to this run, Dallas had lost only five of their previous 62 games at Toyota Stadium (W33 D24) dating back to August 2017 (including playoffs).
– Austin have lost seven straight away matches, being outscored 17-1 in those games. Since opening Q2 Stadium on June 23, Austin have scored 25 MLS goals with 24 of them being scored at home.