Josh Wolff is targeting revenge and all three points when Austin FC welcome intrastate rivals FC Dallas to Q2 Stadium on Sunday.
Austin fell to a 2-0 loss when the sides faced off for the first time earlier this month, with Wolff coming in for heavy criticism after leaving out his three designated players.
That started a run of three successive defeats for Wolff’s side, a losing streak that was ended with a timely 3-1 win against Portland Timbers last weekend.
With two wins from their last three home games, Wolff knows the importance of putting things right with victory over rivals Dallas.
“This is a rivalry game at home against a team that beat us, so we need to play with full commitment, full freshness and real clear ideas for what it is going to look like,” he said.
“We need points and we’re at home. Ties won’t do us any good right now. It is a rivalry game that we need to return serve on.
“The atmosphere is tremendous, and it really gives our guys an edge. We want to perform well at home.
“Our fans deserve everything we can give them any chance we have to play at Q2 Stadium. It really is one of the best atmospheres in this league.”
Dallas are three points better off than Austin in the Western Conference, albeit having played a game more, with both sides’ playoff hopes fast fading.
The Toros have taken just one point from their three games since beating Austin on home soil three weeks ago and, like their opponents, are in need of a victory.
Luchi Gonzalez will be able to call upon man of the moment Ricardo Pepi, who scored the winning spot-kick in the MLS All-Stars’ win over their Liga MX counterparts in the week.
“Pepi’s at that age where he can debut, he can score against anybody at any given moment if given the opportunity, whether it’s created for him or he creates it himself,” Gonzalez said.
“Whether he’s got five minutes or 90 minutes, he’s very efficient. He’s very efficient with the chances he can get.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Austin FC – Brad Stuver
Stuver made five saves in last week’s meeting with the Timbers to help his side to a much-needed victory. He leads MLS this season in terms of both saves per 90 minutes (4.35) and save percentage (78.4 per cent), both from a minimum of 600 minutes played.
FC Dallas – Ricardo Pepi
All eyes will be on Pepi at Q2 Stadium, and the El Paso-born forward needs no telling just how important this fixture is for both sets of supporters. The 18-year-old, who is reportedly on the radar of top European clubs, has an impressive nine goals and one assist from 20 appearances in his breakthrough campaign.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– FC Dallas have won three straight matches against expansion sides, including a 2-0 home victory over Austin on August 7. Dallas have just one win in their last five away matches against expansion sides, however, winning 1-0 in Nashville last November.
– Austin FC picked up their fifth win of the season with a 3-1 win against Portland. Seven of the 12 goals Austin have scored in their last 16 games have been scored against Portland.
– FC Dallas are unbeaten in three straight away matches (W1 D2) for the first time since May 2018. Dallas have not gone unbeaten in four straight away matches since their first four road games of 2017.
– Stuver has faced 111 shots on his target this season, tied with LA Galaxy’s Jonathan Bond for most in MLS in 2021.
– Pepi scored his 12th career goal on Saturday against Houston, becoming just the fifth player to score 12 times (including playoffs) before turning 19 and the first player to do so since Diego Fagundez with New England in 2013.