Austin FC’s season is essentially already over, but they want to end the year on a high and hope to do so by stopping Sporting Kansas City.
Entering the midweek games, Austin are bottom of the Western Conference, which Sporting KC could lead with a win on Wednesday.
Indeed, there is nothing on this game for the home side but plenty on the line for their visitors.
The Seattle Sounders’ failure to beat the LA Galaxy on Monday, instead drawing 1-1, has opened the door again for SKC.
Sporting had lost 2-0 to Minnesota United at the weekend to seemingly deal a big blow to their hopes, only to have the Galaxy do them a favor.
But they should expect no gifts from Austin, Josh Wolff says, as the strugglers relish the opportunity to play a top team in their final home game of the year.
“These are two great opponents,” Wolff said. “I’ve talked about what the end of the season looks like, playing Kansas City, one of the best teams in the league, period.
“They’re a consistent performer, they play a very consistent brand of soccer, and they and New England and Seattle have been the bet throughout the year.
“It’s going to provide a lot of challenges and certainly some opportunities for some guys, and the game against Portland likewise.
“It’s a team we beat twice, they’re fighting for positioning in the playoffs still. It will provide challenges.
“Neither one of those games will come easily – they will test us and challenge us – but it’s also two teams that we’ve played well against on four occasions.
“I think there will be opportunities there for us to grab points and make it difficult for those teams to capture what they want. More than anything, we want to end on some positives.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Austin FC – Cecilio Dominguez
With seven goals and four assists, Dominguez has been one of Austin’s better performers this year, but he still has not been consistent. The Designated Player has at least proven he can cause Sporting KC problems, though, scoring when the sides drew. He will look to end the year on a high in front of Austin’s home fans.
Sporting Kansas City – Daniel Salloi
Salloi has been one of Sporting KC’s main men this year but was left on the bench against Minnesota, even with Peter Vermes later insisting he could have played the full 90 minutes. With so much on the line, he surely starts and stars on Wednesday.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Sporting Kansas City recorded a win and a draw in their first two meetings with Austin FC, both in Kansas City. Sporting are unbeaten in their past nine matches against expansion sides (W5 D4), last suffering a defeat at Minnesota United in May 2017.
– Austin FC have won three of their past four home matches (L1) after winning just three of their first 12 games at Q2 Stadium (D2 L7). Austin have conceded just three times in those four games after holding opponents under two goals just once in their previous six at home.
– Sporting KC suffered just their eighth defeat of the season on Sunday, losing at Minnesota United. Sporting have recorded a win in the game following each of their first seven defeats this season.
– Alexander Ring has assisted each of Austin’s past two goals. Ring had just one assist in his first 27 appearances this season.
– Johnny Russell’s club-record eight-match scoring streak ended on Sunday, but he did record an assist in the game, his ninth straight game with agoal contribution. The only two players to record a goal contribution in 10 straight matches in a single regular season in the past 20 years were Josef Martinez (15 straight) in 2019 and Sebastian Giovinco (12) in 2018.