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Austin FC wins big! Team makes history, takes No. 1 spot in 2-1 LAFC win

Over a year after its first loss, Austin FC was all smiles as it beat LAFC to take home the top MLS West spot Wednesday. (Austin FC/Twitter)

Over a year after they took the stage for the first time in Los Angeles, Austin FC returned to Banc of America Stadium to snatch the No. 1 spot from LAFC in a 2-1 statement win late Wednesday night.

Austin FC, which has flirted with the top spot in the MLS West this season, has now solidly reached the summit just a year after its second-to-last first season finish. The new top dogs are now 7-2-3 overall.

Here's a look at three highlights from the match:

Flashback in LA

For many Austin FC fans and naysayers alike, the match was more than a fight for the MLS West throne: it also served as a symbol of how far the team has come.

The two clubs first met on the Banc of America pitch as Austin FC saw its first game and first loss all at once in a 2-0 battle last April. It was an exciting but shaky start to the club's first season, and the loss seemed to set the tone for the rest of its inaugural year as the club dipped to second to last in the conference.

If Austin's first season was hallmarked by its first match, then its second-year success was foretold by its back-to-back five-goal victories to kick off the season.

Since then, the club has battled its own first-year shadow, claims of "bonus games" and a few unexpected obstacles—both on and off the pitch—but it has almost always come out on top.

That fight to the top was fully realized Wednesday, even as the club played its toughest opponent yet. Even with a man down in the middle due to Daniel Pereira's red card last game, the club kept its cool through even the trickiest moments of the match. Jhojan Valencia, who patched the Pereira hole in midfield, got his first MLS start and first MLS assist as Ruben Gabrielsen scored the first goal of the game.

Gabrielsen's goal

Gabrielsen came to Austin FC as a potential hero for the team's center back position, but the club's resident Viking has already nabbed two goals in his first season with the team.

"That's center forward material," Austin FC announcer Adrian Healey said as Gabrielsen took control of Valencia's pass, paused to fake out the defense, and calmly tucked the ball into the left corner to complete the first goal of the match.

Feel-good Fagundez

Even as LAFC dominated possession for much of the match, Austin FC saw another wide-open goal opportunity crumble as midfielder Diego Fagundez's shot hit the corner goalpost in the 23rd minute.

But Fagundez wasn't finished. The midfielder was short on his Verde hair dye but full of surprises as he nimbly sunk a shot over LAFC defense to make it 2-0 with 10 minutes to go.

Fagundez, who has spent more time setting up goals for his teammates (becoming the No. 1 assister in the MLS in the process), finally took the center stage with his second goal this season.

Owen Wolff, head coach Josh Wolff's own son, had a scoring opportunity of his own foiled by the goalpost as he started his first MLS match as one of the youngest starters in the league this season.

But Austin FC wouldn't score again; instead, LAFC powerhouse Carlos Vela made the win a bit trickier in the 86th minute as he got past Austin keeper Brad Stuver to cut the lead in half. The other Wolff quickly subbed in a five-prong defense as the club kept steady for the final 10 painstaking minutes to win the match.

BONUS: Stuver's career-making match

After two weeks on the bench due to a knee gash, Austin's star keeper Brad Stuver had the Stuver-iest match of all time (yes, we're making it a word) as he pulled off six saves to help his team to No. 1.

Stuver looked like a pinball machine as he pulled off save after save with his feet, hands and body to keep it nearly 100% clean on the back end.


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