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Austin FC salutes their fans after their inaugural match at LAFC on April 17. (Austin FC/Twitter)

Nearly 500,000 viewers across the U.S. drew their breath as Austin FC's Tomas Pochettino nearly sent a header to the back of the LAFC net. Then again when another header from substitute Jon Gallagher flew just wide of goal, reigniting a fighting spirit in the club. Once more in the 90th minute when Gallagher faced LAFC goalie Pablo Sisniega in a last-minute attempt to narrow the lead.

While no fans saw the club complete their first-ever goal, 30 of them were able to watch the debut from the Banc of California Stadium itself. Nearly 1,500 miles away, thousands more watched with fingers crossed from watch parties and living rooms across Austin.

Austin FC has another chance to fly one past the goalkeeper in this week's matchup in Denver against the Colorado Rapids. If you're part of the #denVERDE movement making the trek up to the match this weekend, you probably already know as much as I do. If not, here's a rundown of possible lineup changes, Rapids insights and info on where to watch Austin FC's (possible) first goal.

What to expect

The Rapids' Michael Barrios could be a tough offensive threat against Austin FC on April 24. (Colorado Rapids/Twitter)

So what do we know about the Colorado Rapids this season?

Truthfully, not much. The Rapids didn't give a lot away in their season opener as they ended in a scoreless draw at FC Dallas over the weekend.

Despite a lackluster opening match, we do know the team and fans are eager to watch their home opener at Dick's Sporting Goods Park for the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic.

A founding member of the MLS, the Rapids have 25 years of experience on Austin's expansion team. While they may not have the track record of LAFC, this is clearly not a shoe-in for Austin FC. The club will need to look out for Rapids forward Michael Barrios, who saw three of his four shots on target against his former club, FC Dallas.

The Rapids could also have an advantage on their home turf due to their placement in the Rockies. Austin FC already looks like they aren't 100% conditioned, and high altitudes could tire the club out even quicker. Head Coach Josh Wolff said the team has been using altitude and bariometric chambers to prepare, and they're conditioning like usual for the match.

Beware of headers, Colorado. While Austin FC hasn't connected on anything so far, they saw some near goals with nail-biting headers throughout the match. If DP Pochettino, Danny Hoesen or Gallagher get shots on goal like they did last week, it could be game over for the Rapids.

Austin FC vs. Colorado Rapids projected lineup

If you were here last week, there's likely nothing new. Wolff gave no indication on changing the lineup for this week's match, and it's more likely he'll keep the same starters from the LAFC match for at least a few weeks. There are a few changes that would be less surprising than others, however.

Hoesen saw a few chances in the match, but he didn't really secure his spot as Austin FC's purest offensive player in the opener. Meanwhile, Gallagher brought new life to the team when he subbed in later in the match, notching two near goals in the final minutes of play. Whether it was first-match jitters or simply the luck of the draw, Hoesen's likely still safe for a few matches, but Gallagher could prove a threat later on down the road.

Ben Sweat didn't stand out too much in the match, and perhaps that's a good thing for a defender. He sailed across to Pochettino to aid a near goal in the first half, and he appeared to do what he needed to in left back. His starting spot is threatened less because he did poorly and more because his sub, 21-year old Slovenian Zan Kolmanic, did surprisingly well. Kolmanic is behind on conditioning, but he's got more than enough skill to make a run for the starting spot at some point.

Finally, Brad Stuver came as a bit of a surprise as he edged out Andrew Tarbell in the club's first match. The two were neck-and-neck in preseason, but Stuver appeared to do his job up against LAFC, blocking a shot in the first 30 seconds of play and fending off 11 on-target shot attempts. We can still expect to see Tarbell start at some point.

Where to watch

Over 1,000 Austin FC fans watched the inaugural match at Austin Anthem's watch party at Circle Brewing on April 17. (Circle Brewing/Twitter)

If you're not part of the #denVERDE crew headed up to watch the match live (psst, tickets are still up, and they're cheap!), there's still plenty of watch parties available this weekend.

The official Austin FC watch party will be held at 3TEN ACL Live. Kickoff is at 8 p.m., but the org recommends coming early—last time, over 1,000 people showed up, and there's limited seating at this venue. It's free to enter, and there's a full bar available as well. Bites are provided by the W Austin.

Fan club Austin Anthem has relocated to Adelbert's Brewing for this week's match. Expect limited seating, as the club also saw over 1,000 RSVPs for the opener. RSVP here.

Finally, Los Verdes has already shown they're bringing a good time, all the time. Partnered with Hopsquad Brewing, the club plans to bring live music, beer, food and "a surprise" to Saturday's watch party. Doors open at 12 p.m., live music kicks off at 2 p.m. and kickoff is at 8 p.m. More info here.

For a full list of pub partners that will play the match, click here.


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