Timbers-Austin FC Preview

National Sports

Austin FC will fight in the face of adversity despite enduring a rocky start to life in MLS, says head coach Josh Wolff as his side prepare to host Portland Timbers.

Austin sit bottom of the Western Conference and, after seven losses in eight games, the realities of building a new club are starting to set in.

Nevertheless, the hosts ended a two-game blank run against Vancouver Whitecaps in a 2-1 defeat last game and could climb above Houston Dynamo with a win against the Timbers.

“There’s been a lot to learn from and there’s been a lot of adversity,” Wolff admitted. “We’re building a team from scratch and that is difficult in itself.

“There’s a learning curve and a lot of it is to do with communication and clarity, that’s still ongoing and that’s the reality, for me.”

“We’ve lost our way a little bit and confidence has been affected. As a coach, the learning curve for me is getting that back, instilling our ideas and preparing [our players] that ultimately they can go and perform.”

Portland, who have the second-worst defense in MLS, travel to Q2 stadium in poor form, too, having won just one of their last six.

However, despite succumbing to a 6-2 defeat by Seattle Sounders recently, a 1-1 draw with high-flying Sporting Kansas City provided the visitors with confidence last time out.

“We were very disciplined and we defended very well,” head coach Giovanni Savarese said of the performance. “We created some good moments and had some good opportunities.

“It was a collective effort, good work from the team and I think ultimately this is a team that has belief.”

Savarese will be hoping his team carry their “phenomenal mentality” over to hang onto their playoff place against Austin, who have suffered five defeats at home in their last seven outings.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Austin FC – Sebastian Driussi

Recent signing Sebastian Driussi was able to feature against the Caps and provided his first assist in what was his first real outing for Austin. He will likely lead the line and could prove pivotal against Portland’s fragile defense.

Portland Timbers – Marvin Loria

Marvin Loria recorded his fifth assist against Western Conference power Kansas City, teeing up Felipe Mora to head home – no Timbers star has created more goals than the Costa Rica midfielder this term.

KEY OPTA FACTS

·Austin FC scored a club-record four goals in its win over Portland on July 1. Portland is now winless in four straight away matches against expansion sides (D1 L3), conceding at least three goals in all three losses.

·Austin has lost six of its last seven matches (W1), though it did manage to find the net in its 2-1 defeat to Vancouver on Wednesday. It marked just the second time Austin has lost a match in which it scored this season (W4 D1 L2).

·The Timbers have won just two of 26 visits to Texas (D11 L13, including playoffs) in their MLS history. Portland’s only regular season win in the Lone Star State was a 2-0 victory at Dallas in October 2014.

·Alexander Ring scored his second goal of the season in Austin’s loss to Vancouver on Wednesday. Ring’s last six goals, dating back to last season with New York City FC, have all been scored at home.

·Felipe Mora scored his MLS-leading fifth headed goal of the season in Portland’s 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday. Mora has seven headed goals since the start of last season, most in the league.

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