Whitecaps FC-Austin FC Preview

National Sports

Austin FC are still eyeing up a post-season run despite finding themselves bottom of the Western Conference ahead of Wednesday’s visit of fellow strugglers Vancouver Whitecaps.

That is according to head coach Josh Wolff, who witnessed his side go down 1-0 to Real Salt Lake at the weekend to make it five defeats in their last six matches.

The Texans have failed to score in each of those losses, yet Wolff believes his side’s campaign can turn on one result should they see off the team directly above them in midweek.

“An objective and goal of ours is to make the playoffs,” he said. “That hasn’t changed. But we need to focus on the game in front of us.

“I understand the frustration. That criticism is warranted because we’re not scoring goals and not winning games. We’re aware that we need to get results and need to score goals.”

Austin are seven points off the top seven with half of the regular season played, while next opponents Vancouver are just one point and one place better off.

The Whitecaps have made themselves tough to beat, going six games without defeat, but they have drawn the last five of those.

Marc Dos Santos’ side are one tie away from equaling the MLS record, but the Caps’ head coach insists playing for a draw is never the intention.

“We go for the three points,” he said. “When you don’t win it’s important not to lose because every point is important.

“I’m proud of the players for what they have been doing on the road, the fight they have showed, the spirit and the way they go about things.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Austin FC – Brad Stuver

Austin’s attacking struggles have been particularly frustrating for Stuver to watch, the goalkeeper having more than held his own this season. He was again the Verde and Black’s best player in their loss to Real Salt Lake, making seven saves on the day and 76 overall this term – the most of any goalkeeper in MLS.

Vancouver Whitecaps – Ryan Gauld

The recent signing has been eased into the side with two substitute appearances and looks ready to make his full debut. In the absence of Lucas Cavallini, who is in a race against time to play again this season due to a knee injury, Gauld’s creativity is much needed in the final third.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Vancouver have lost only one of their last six matches against expansion sides dating back to 2017 (W3 D2). The Whitecaps’ only away loss against an expansion side was as one themselves in a 2-1 defeat at fellow newcomers Portland in 2011.

– Austin failed to score for the 11th time in their last 14 games, and 12th overall this season, in their 1-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake. Austin are the second team in MLS history to be shut out 11 times in a 14-match span after Colorado from August to October 1999.

– The Whitecaps have drawn five straight matches, the first team to do so since Chicago Fire drew six in a row in March-April 2014. That run of six straight draws by the Fire, along with a six-match streak of draws by Colorado Rapids in 2011, are the longest such runs in MLS history.

– Austin’s last goals came in a 3-2 win over Houston on August 4. In their five months in MLS, Austin have managed to score in multiple matches in a month just once, scoring on May 1 against Minnesota United and May 9 against Sporting Kansas City.

– Vancouver, who played a scoreless draw with San Jose in their last game, have not kept consecutive clean sheets in a single regular season since shutouts against Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy in March-April 2016.

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