Austin Preview of LAFC: It's big for us, but not really for them.
There's a little part of Austin that still feels small: How it perceives itself. At this point, Austin is one of the larger cities in the country but it population just doesn't know it yet. At its heart (if it still exists and hasn't been eroded by tech money and unheralded expansion) it's a small town. That's the part of Austin I love, and that's why I live in South Austin. It's still Austin down here, but it won't be for much longer. And that's okay. Change is all encompassing, and always wins. As a fanbase, Austin FC knows this all too well. New bad club, turns into a good newish club, and then back into the dirty basement step-daughter this year.
All this is to say, Austin thinks of themselves as the small town with a chip on its shoulder, even if it's not that small anymore. And boy do we have a chip on our shoulder. I'm very familiar with this concept. I'm originally from Kansas City (I'm part of the problem, I know) and that town can't get enough of the small town THEY COUNTED US OUT mentality. But I hate that mentality. It's annoying. It's the type of little-brother-pesky-little-butthole behavior that you get when you think you DESERVE respect (see Texas A&M).
LAFC doesn't respect us. They don't even care about us. This isn't a rivalry for them. LAFC doesn't even think of us as a contender. Why should they? Seattle is their contemporary. The Galaxy are their rivals. Austin is just a sniveling little fly that they bat away when they're annoyed. They don't care that we beat them twice in the regular season. They beat us in the Cup standings. They beat us in the playoffs. Head to head is pointless to them, because they are a top-tier club and right now. The jewel of the MLS.
LA has depth. They have talent. They're smoking their way through CCL.
Austin has looked lethargic, disappointing, dreadful at times. I won't get into the weeds, because I already have.
But we've all had a week off. The team had a week off. I've had a week off and I'm desperate for soccer. Desperate to see this team on the pitch again. I hope they're just as desperate. And not in the childish "LET ME BE BIG" way. This isn't a small town anymore, and we shouldn't act like LA is our rival because they aren't. They SHOULD be our contemporary. This game means jack-shit to us, other than the fact that every week we should be dominating. And because we have this guy, we SHOULD dominate every week:
You can make a lot of excuses for the unpleasant play from this Austin team, but you can't this weekend, and you can't going forward. LAFC played midweek, and last weekend. We've been off for two weeks. We've beat them TWICE in the last two regular season matchups. Hell, Austin might even have Cascante back this week (but I doubt it).
Time for excuses are over. Time for missed chances are over. Wolff has had two weeks to get this team back on its feet. I don't expect a giant shift in tactics. Classic 4-4-3. But I expect better execution. I expect Diego to show up and play with the heart we know him to have. I expect better combination play between Driuissi and his attacking partners (specifically the striker, whoever that is). If this team is to do anything worth while this season, it's got to start on Saturday. And if we don't, well, maybe we are just a little brother.
What to watch for:
Which wings will step up? I like our chances this week. Austin and Josh Wolff have a tendency to come out well after rest and organization. I really haven't been concerned with the Midfield and Defense, so who's gonna step up and join Driussi in attack? Do we see Fagundez and Rigoni flip sides? Do we have to watch Finlay again? That wouldn't be good.
GET SOME SERVICE TO THE 9. I don't know what the plan was with Zardes to start the season, but it hasn't worked. He needs to combine passes with Driussi more if he's going to be a positive presence on the pitch. Otherwise, sit him and use Uritti like we did last year. And please, for the love of God, leave Will Bruin at Austin-Bergstrom.
If neither of the above happen, then we might need to consider moving Wolff back up the pitch. He's on fire right now. He's a phenom at the 8, and he can win us a game from that position. No doubt. He's the best prospect on this team, and the only player right now that could ever hope to achieve the skill Driussi has. He might have to be close to that good for us to make a run at any of the goals this team had to start the season. I'm looking forward to seeing how he does against their elite midfield at LAFC. If he's up for it, and our wingers aren't, let's put him up wide again and see what we can do. We're shooting blanks from there right now. At least when Owen Wolff shoots blanks, it's a blank with potential.