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Preview: Austin FC faces Chicharito without their ringleader at LA Galaxy this weekend

Alex Ring won't be playing against LA Galaxy after he was red carded last weekend. (Austin FC)

All good things must come to an end, including, unfortunately, Austin FC's moment as the MLS golden child.

After Captain Alex Ring was red carded in the 67th minute of play at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, it became clear that Austin FC has more than beginner's luck but is still less than perfect in their inaugural season.

This week's game will test Austin FC's resiliency and skills more than ever as they face off against an ever-more-terrifying Chicharito and other forces of the universe at LA Galaxy.

What to expect

Austin FC is a starting man down without Captain Ring, and their confidence may be shaken as their stunning two-match win streak came to an abrupt halt. Meanwhile, LA Galaxy is on a high after beating rival LAFC 2-1 in El Trafico last weekend.

The club is headlined by Chicharito, who tallied a goal and an assist against LAFC and has scored six goals in four games so far. Greg Vanney, the new Galaxy manager who turned around Toronto FC, seems to be bringing new life to the team, and they now sit at 3rd in the Western Conference with a 3-1 record.

Austin FC is not in a good spot to play a team with such momentum, especially with their Captain out on red. Wolff scrambled to put together an uncharacteristically defensive lineup after Ring's sendoff, but the move backfired and Kansas City scored two goals to end the match last weekend.

Admittedly, however, the club only had 10 players on the field, and Wolff and team will have time to prepare for a new strategy as they take on the Galaxy.

With goalkeeper Brad Stuver tallying five impressive saves last week, Austin FC's backline still intact, and maybe a bit of luck, the club could come out of this match with a few minor scrapes instead of major wounds.

Lineup changes

I'm probably not the first to say that my lineup prediction for this week is almost a complete shot in the dark. With no "ringleader" serving as the glue in the middle, it's hard to say what strategies Wolff will use to fight off the Galaxy.

One thing is certain: Ring won't be there. If they keep the same formation as before, Sebastian Berhalter, who just turned 20, could be facing his first starting spot as he attempts to clean up the midfield.

Instead, I'm imagining a more defensive approach as Austin FC attempts to block Chicharito. With a 4-4-2 formation, the team's frontman would be cut to make way for four midfielders. Diego Fagundez had his worst match of the season last week, but the team will need all hands on deck in Ring's absence. Tomas Pochettino had a great match on both sides of the ball next week, so he should stay in the lineup.

Luckily, Austin FC has a couple of starter-level midfielders sitting on the bench. Wolff could move Daniel Pereira into the mix, and Rodney Redes could play a bit back from his normal position at right wing to fill out the midfield.

There may be changes in the middle, but I think both wingers from last week, Cecilio Dominguez and Jared Stroud, will stay intact. Meanwhile, there's no need to shake things up in the back, and Stuver is likely to stay as the last line of defense after an excellent match against Kansas City.


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