Josh Wolff takes his Austin FC side to Real Salt Lake on Saturday hoping that his selection gamble last weekend has paid off.
Austin named a weakened side for its Copa Tejas clash with FC Dallas, which ended in a 2-0 loss and leaves the expansion side one from the bottom of the Western Conference.
Wolff explained after the match that he left Cecilio Dominguez, Tomas Pochettino and new signing Sebastian Driussi out of his XI with an eye on the long term. After losing four of its last five games, the pressure is now on Austin to get some points on the board when it heads to Rio Tinto Stadium.
Finding the net has been a particular problem for MLS’ lowest-scoring side, but Wolff remains optimistic that the goals will soon flow for his side.
“When we score one, we score in bunches,” he said. “Scoring has been the focus this week and that will continue as we go forward. I think we’ve been fairly solid defensively.”
Real Salt Lake could do with a morale-boosting win of its own after losing back-to-back matches at the hands of the LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers.
RSL sits two points outside the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference, and head coach Freddy Juarez accepts there is more to come from his players.
“There has been a lot of growth from last year,” he said. “Now we look at how we can we develop that extra one percent in the game to score the goal to win the game or tie the game
“We are definitely not satisfied where we are at. I feel with confidence that we could have had 25-28 points. That’s where we feel at the moment, but we have 17 games – that’s 51 points at hand. We have to push to get 30 points. There is growth and we have to have even more now.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Real Salt Lake – Damir Kreilach
To put Austin’s scoring issues into context, it has scored 13 goals in 17 matches this term. By comparison, RSL all-rounder Kreilach has eight alone in the same number of games. Not only that, the 32-year-old – recently named in the MLS All-Stars team – has four assists, meaning he leads both categories for Real Salt Lake players.
Austin FC – Sebastian Driussi
After accepting that he was perhaps overly cautious with his selection last time out, Wolff has hinted Driussi will make his first start as an Austin player on Saturday. Driussi, who scored 31 goals in four seasons with River Plate and 25 goals in 119 appearances for Zenit St Petersburg, will be expected to provide a punch in Austin’s attack.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Real Salt Lake has lost two of its last three home matches against expansion sides (W1). RSL lost only one of its first ten matches against expansion teams at home (W7 D2) from 2005 to 2015.
– RSL has suffered consecutive losses for the first time this season after a 3-2 defeat at Portland last week following a 1-0 loss at the Galaxy. However, it has suffered just one defeat in its last seven home matches (W2 D4).
– Austin failed to score for the 11th time in 17 matches in its 2-0 loss at FC Dallas last week, tied for the most at this stage of a season in MLS history with FC Cincinnati in 2020 and D.C. United in 2017 and 2010.
– Albert Rusnak and Kreilach both scored in Real Salt Lake’s loss to Portland last week, marking the club-record ninth time they have both scored in the same match. The pairs of Javier Morales and Joao Plata, along with Rusnak and Jefferson Savarino, each scored in the same match eight times for RSL.
– Austin FC is the most accurate passing team in MLS this season, completing 85.8 percent of their passes, while only Atlanta United (58.2 percent) have had more possession than Austin (55.2 percent). Alexander Ring has completed 70.3 passes per 90 minutes, second most of any player to play 600 or more minutes this season (Andreu Fontas, SKC – 74.5).