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Preview: David and Goliath battle ahead of an exhausted Austin FC in Seattle

(Austin FC)

With Jhohan Romana and Daniel Pereira's injuries against Nashville SC on Sunday, Austin FC has now tallied seven injuries (two recoveries) in its six-week existence.

The club is also losing confidence as it hits the road—for the seventh week in a row—to play West Conference giants Seattle Sounders on Sunday.

But it's not time to throw in the towel.

Austin FC is currently seven weeks in to the hardest stretch of matches they'll see this season. The club hasn't had a weekend at home since preseason play in early April and has played No. 2 (West) Kansas City, No. 3 (West) LA Galaxy and No 4. (East) Nashville. Austin even scraped up a win against Minnesota and No. 5 (West) Colorado Rapids as they await their first-ever home match on June 19.

Here's some insight into the underdog fight at Seattle this weekend.

What to expect

There's no beating around the bush: Seattle is good. The Sounders are one of three undefeated clubs in MLS this season (another one being the Nashville club Austin FC faced last weekend) and they have the best record in the league. They're hot off the best start in club history and the 11th-best start since MLS began.

The club has steamrolled competition by trailblazing a 3-5-2 lineup and utilizing a Roldan-to-Ruidiaz pipeline to get the ball in goal, though they've got plenty of other attacking options. Christian Roldan is key to the middle: though he hasn't got the stats, he's ranked at fourth on the MLS' MVP Power Rankings for a reason. Roldan and his brother, right back Alex Roldan, account for three assists for the club as they bring the ball up to Seattle's No. 1 goalscorer, Raul Ruidiaz.

Ruidiaz is only behind Chicharito in goals scored this season, with six goals so far and 12 shots on target. Meanwhile, Nouhou Tolo heads the back of a Sounders defense that is just as strong as the front.

The team has had some of the same injury problems as Austin FC—namely, the injury of Designated Player Nicolas Lodeiro—but Christian Roldan told Sounders Weekly podcast host Jackson Felts that the transition has gone well.

"We're a hard team to score on, and that will always keep you in games," Roldan said. "Not conceding any careless goals and on top of that having a forward that's in form right now....It's really been seamless," Roldan said.

Roldan said that it will be difficult to face an Austin FC side that has an "organized defense" and is "well-coached," but Austin will be threatened on multiple fronts this weekend. Seattle has outscored its competition 10 to 2 and scored four goals off of crowd-raising headers in the past four matches. They've already beaten rivals in the LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers, and they'll be looking to keep their undefeated streak as they head into the weekend.

Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff said it will come down to sticking to the process but creating more dangerous chances in goal as they continue their hardest stretch of the season.

"We all want to win, and we set ourselves up and we compete in a way that we hopefully will go out there and win," Wolff said. "But I don't need to create any undue pressure on anybody based on what media is saying. So my version of it is we have to keep getting better."

Projected starting lineup

Austin FC saw yet another defender injury after center back Romana left the match early last week. The back line giant will likely not face the Giants of the MLS.

Romana's absence is the latest in a string of injuries that have weighed down an ever-changing back line, and Wolff said both he and midfielder Pereira are "certainly injured" heading into the match.

"It's going to take a little time," Wolff said. "It affects how we can train and certainly what our starters will look like, but it's part of the game. Certainly not afraid of what we have that can come in and play."

Wolff vaguely implied that fans shouldn't count on Romana or Pereira next week. Instead, Julio Cascante, who has started for Matt Besler in the past, will likely get a crack at the Starting XI this weekend. Meanwhile, Diego Fagundez, the man behind Austin FC's first goal who has scored twice this season, is likely to start in Pereira's stead in the middle. Roldan said that Fagundez is a player who has "been thriving" in Austin.

In the highly-contested right wing position, I expect Rodney Redes to take the pitch once again. Redes has slowly become more dangerous after suffering a "ding" to the knee at the end of preseason, but he's got competition in Jared Stroud. Stroud would have been looking at the first goal with the club in Nashville after he snuck one in goal, but the ball was called offsides. Still, the winger has added two key assists to the program and always provides much-needed energy when he hits the pitch.

Wolff was noncommittal on whether he'd start Stroud or Redes in right wing, so it could still go either way.

Luckily in the front, striker Jon Gallagher is back from injury to sit atop the pitch with Danny Hoesen. Because Wolff said he had one of the best chances of the game last match, Hoesen is likely to still start as both lack the punch to get many in goal.


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