Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff hailed the character of his in-form side ahead of an MLS clash with Orlando City.
Western Conference leaders Austin sit ahead of Los Angeles FC on goal difference following a 2-1 win over the second-placed side last game.
Austin had previously been acclaimed for their free-flowing football, but Wolff acknowledged the narrow victories are what could make the difference this season.
“We’re going to play a lot of games; you got to hang in, you got to grind,” said Wolff.
“Winning games 1-0, winning one-goal games, is about character and belief and being difficult to break down.
“Of course you’re going to give a little bit, the important part is that you don’t break. We’ve had a number of one-goal wins this year. We’ve had a couple where we blow them out. This builds a little more character, and the group has better character.”
“We’ve just got to keep pushing forward. We got a long ways to go, but we’re proud of our efforts and we’ll be ready for Orlando.”
Orlando, meanwhile, have won two straight games across all competitions and, despite being fifth in the Eastern Conference, are just one point behind leaders Philadelphia Union.
Coach Oscar Pareja expects a tough task when his side visit the Q2 Stadium.
“Austin is a game that is going to bring different expressions from a team that we haven’t competed [against],” Pareja said.
“It’s a good opportunity to match a team that has been playing well during the season so far. They have very good players, but we are proud about ours too and we are ready to compete.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Austin FC – Sebastian Driussi
Sebastian Driussi has regularly been the difference for Austin, leading the club’s scoring charts with seven strikes in 12 games.
Orlando City – Kyle Smith
Kyle Smith could be in contention to start against Austin after scoring the winner in the 2-1 victory over Toronto FC.
KEY OPTA FACTS
·This will be the first meeting between Austin FC and Orlando City. Orlando won its first match in Texas, 1-0 at Houston in 2015, but is winless in five visits since (D1 L4).
·Following its 2-1 victory over Los Angeles Football Club, Austin FC has now scored 25 goals this season, which leads MLS in 2022. Through its first 12 games last season, the team had scored just 10 goals, having been shut out seven times.
·Orlando City has won four of its last six matches, including a 1-0 victory at Toronto on Saturday. The victory in Toronto was Orlando’s third in its last five road games (D1 L1) after winning only two of its previous 14 away from home (D5 L7, including playoffs).
·With his assist on Wednesday, Sebastián Driussi now has 11 goal contributions this season (7 goals, 4 assists) while teammate Diego Fagúndez’s goal gives him nine goal contributions (2 goals, 7 assists) in 2022. No other pair of teammates has nine or more goal contributions this season.
·Kyle Smith scored the stoppage time winner for Orlando City against Toronto on Saturday, making him the fourth different defender to score a goal for Orlando in 2022 (João Moutinho, Ruan, Rodrigo Schlegel). Only CF Montréal (5) has had more different defenders find the scoresheet in 2022.