Austin FC can't fall further in their conference's standings, but their pride still took a hit as they lost 3-0 to the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday.
Just days after their triumphant win on Sunday, head coach Josh Wolff made seven lineup changes for the road match, including a rare swap of keeper Brad Stuver for Andrew Tarbell. Paired with a controversial penalty kick call (or lack thereof), the club could never regain their footing as Colorado scored twice in two minutes of play near the half to win the match.
For Wolff, the substitutions came down to resting top players in a three-game stretch across seven games. Still, Wolff said he made mistakes in his lineup strategy.
"The chemistry that they've had playing together...(is) certainly needed," Wolff said. "Obviously there's familiarity, and when we made the changes that I got completely wrong, too many changes disrupted our ability to play."
In a game that mirrored the club's 2-0 loss to FC Dallas, head coach Josh Wolff took three of their club's top scorers out of the entire lineup. Three players- including Moussa Djitte, who scored his first goal with the club on Sunday, Austin's first-ever scorer Diego Fagundez and star transfer Sebastian Driussi- never left Texas.
In their stead was Austinite McKinze Gaines, a striker who made history as the first native Austin resident to score for the club just 10 minutes into his first match on Sunday. Gaines proved to be the club's most dangerous asset through the first half and used his speed to nearly score in the 36th minute. Gaines was knocked by a Rapids defender just inside the box, a move that warranted a penalty kick.
But the PK call would never come, shocking Austin FC announcers and outraging Wolff and the team.
"It's a difficult decision that we've got to live with," Wolff said. "It's not a penalty, not a red and I'm sure we'll get an apology, but that's life."
A flustered Austin FC took their first hit when the Rapids' Jonathan Lewis scored on a header that deflected off Austin's Nick Lima before bouncing in goal just seconds before halftime.
Tarbell, who earned his first start in the match, made his first error as he passed to a Rapids defender less than a minute into the second half. Colorado's Nicolás Mezquida quickly capitalized on the mistake as he completed two touches to double the home team's lead.
An unfortunate match took an even worse turn in the 59th minute as the Rapids' scored on a signature set piece to give Austin their worst deficit in team history.
Marred by yellow cards, more substitutions and a messy end, the Verde and Black left Dick's Sporting Goods Stadium with their first loss on its pitch. But Wolff is confident that the team could still come out of the week with six points after the next road match.
"I told these guys, 'Don't let this have any effect on you,'" Wolff said. "I got this wrong, that's my my responsibility and I screwed that up, (but) let's pick ourselves up quickly and get ready for another good game at home."
The club will look for recovery in a home match against Real Salt Lake in a rare afternoon match at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
67' Austin makes two substitutions
With a 3-0 deficit well into the second half, Austin FC swaps Designated Player Tomas Pochettino for Sebastian Berhalter and McKinze Gaines for Rodney Redes. Wolff appears to be resting his players up at this point by giving his last star players a break.
59' Colorado goes up 3-0
Auston > Austin pic.twitter.com/KAuONb2qsK— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) September 30, 2021
Austin's performance on the road has taken a nosedive after Colorado capitalized on their signature set pieces to bounce in a tricky header for their third goal of the night.
With seven lineup changes from Sunday's win, many fans are comparing the match to the 2-0 FC Dallas loss that also saw head coach Josh Wolff bench three of the team's top scorers. The club is now stuck doing damage control as they fight to end the match with any goals to their name.
46' Colorado doubles the lead
Just seconds before the first half ended, Colorado scored, and seconds into the second half, they scored once more. After a solid first half, Andrew Tarbell miscalculated a pass that rolled straight to the Rapids' Nicolás Mezquida.
Mezquida took no hesitation as he completed two touches before smoothly shooting into the bottom right corner of goal.
It's not going to be a deja vu moment for Austin FC's last road match against the Rapids, but Wolff has placed Dominguez into play in place of defender Manny Perez. If Dominguez starts a pattern at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, it could mean Austin comes away with at least a draw tonight.
45+ Colorado scores
A frustrating half for Austin FC ended even further out of their favor as the Rapids' Jonathan Lewis scored off of a deflection from Austin FC defender Nick Lima's leg in a corner kick in the final minutes of the first half.
The close-up header nixes Andrew Tarbell's chance at a clean sheet at no fault of his own as Austin leaves the pitch to regroup.
In his last match at Dick's Sporting Goods Field, Cecilio Dominguez was the proved a vital weapon for the team as he scored twice to transform the match from a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 win.With no Driussi, Djitte or Fagundez, Dominguez may be the club's final weapon.
36' Controversial call keeps Gaines without a PK
A few minutes after Austinite McKinze Gaines became the first Austinite to nab a yellow card with the club, he attempted to double his goals with Austin with an aggressive drive up the field.
Gaines is roughly stopped by the Rapids' defense in the box. Though it appears through video replay that a penalty kick was deserved, the referees make no call in Austin FC's favor. Austin commentators Adrian Healey and Michael Lahoud are stumped at the call (or lack thereof) and head coach Josh Wolff is outraged.
Austin FC is now working to keep their composure after what appears to be another unlucky call.
30' Tarbell gets first saves
Tarbell with some good saves this half, thoughts on him ? pic.twitter.com/PGt5KsqB84— WeAreAustinTV (@WeAreAustinTV) September 30, 2021
Andrew Tarbell may not have minutes behind him, but he's playing like a man who's started before this season as he nabs two key saves in the half to keep Colorado at bay. The Rapids are dominating the stat board-they've got 70% possession, six shots and two shots on goal. Meanwhile, Austin has one shot and is struggling to gain any control in the match.
Lots of surprises here: Tarbell gets his first start over Stuver, Perez in for Cascante. Gaines gets his first start. Dominguez, Djitte and Driussi not in that starting XI. No clue how this will go https://t.co/atmAXdA4aD— Claire (@partain_claire) September 30, 2021
Instead of sticking to Sunday's game-winning lineup, Wolff has scratched some heads by cutting scorers Moussa Djitte, Diego Fagundez and Sebastian Driussi out of the bench and starting XI. According to reporter Jorge Itturalde, none of the game-scoring trio even made their way to Colorado. Cecilio Dominguez, a usual starter, is also out of the starting XI but was named to the bench.
In their stead is McKinze Gaines, the team's first native Austinite who scored less than 10 minutes into his first start on Sunday. Gaines will be joined by Jon Gallagher and Jared Stroud.
Captain Alex Ring is back as anchor in the midfield, but center back Julio Cascante has been replaced by Manny Perez, a young player who usually plays up front. Perhaps most surprising is Austin's choice to bench keeper Brad Stuver for the first time this season in the stead of Andrew Tarbell.
It's a confusing choice after Sunday's game, but perhaps Wolff has a trick up his sleeve.
Samsung might soon be making more moves in the Austin metro.
The tech giant, which made waves as it announced plans to build a $17 billion chip plant in Taylor in late 2021, might be looking to expand in the Northeast Austin area, according to an Austin Business Journal report.
ABJ said the South Korean company is seeking more tax breaks from nearby Taylor and Manor school districts. The company filed documents requesting Chapter 313 incentives related to the breaks Saturday, and ABJ said each district will review the requests separately on Tuesday.
"While we do not have specific plans to build at this time, the Chapter 313 application process is part of our long-term planning to evaluate the viability of potentially building additional fabrication plants in the U.S.," Samsung Austin Semiconductor LLC.'s director of communications, Michele Glaze, told the ABJ.
But Samsung has made headlines for more than just the $17 billion plant: In early 2022, the company caught heat for two separate spills of millions of gallons of wastewater into tributaries near its semiconductor plant.
While no expansion is promised, ABJ speculates that expansions could occur at the 1,200 acre planned Taylor factory or near the chipmaking factory on Austin's East Parmer Lane. Both expansions could bring even more revenue and job opportunities to Samsung's Texas home.
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A first minute error gave Austin FC an early setback, but with the help of two red cards and two second-half goals, the Verde and Black still forced a last-minute tie in a messy home battle against Orlando City SC Sunday night.
With the 2-2 draw, Austin dropped from No. 1 in the MLS West conference but still earned a point in the standings thanks to a penalty kick goal from Sebastian Driussi and a breakthrough shot from striker Moussa Djitte, who scored his first goal with the club in the final minute of play.
Here are the top three takeaways from the match:
A fateful mistake
Just days after his highlight reel-worthy LAFC performance, Austin keeper Brad Stuver scratched heads as he gave away a goal seconds into the game. Stuver's fateful pass went straight to Orlando's Junior Urco, who was already in the box and tapped a quick pass to Ercan Kara to score the first goal of the match.
The mistake forced Austin to chase a tie for the rest of the match, especially as center back Ruben Gabrielsen benched himself in the 20th minute. The team later said Gabrielsen has come down with something similar to a stomach bug.
Orlando would score two minutes later, and Austin FC left the first half looking like the opposite of its "Best in the MLS" self from just days prior.
The two red cards
By the 60th minute of the match, however, the tides had turned. Orlando's Rodrigo Schlegel, who had already racked up a yellow card on a handball, was ousted from the game two minutes later for yet another handball, this time in the penalty box.
Austin's main man Sebastian Driussi took the kick and sent it in for his eighth goal of the season to make it 2-1.
And just over five minutes later, Orlando's Cesar Araujo was the second man in purple kicked out of the match after he kicked Alex Ring on a slide tackle near the box. Austin was left with just over 20 minutes, and just nine opponents left, to try and tie it up.
The 'Mouss' is loose!
As the whistle blew and regulation time ran out, Orlando seemed to have won the match. The team had withstood many, many close calls—including two shots off the post from Austin FC's Diego Fagundez and Maxi Urruti—as Austin FC flooded the box with 22 cracks at a goal.
But thanks to the chaotic nature of the game, Austin FC was given nine extra minutes to tie it up. Moussa Djitte was the one who finally broke through five minutes into stoppage time, earning his first goal in Verde to put a 2-2 cap on the wild home match.
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