The margins in the MLS are small. I mean, really small. The difference between a playoff team and a wooden spoon winner is really just a player. Take Driussi off of Austin and they're one of the worst teams in the league. Take Hany Mukhtar off Nashville and they're a bad team. This can be said for most squads in the MLS, except for the elite few: Seattle, LAFC, Philadelphia, and maybe Atlanta.
These top tier clubs in the MLS have years of commitment and competence to building rosters. Rosters that have players that are not necessarily two-deep in terms of overall talent, but in terms of play and style. They can plug a player in when one goes down. They've committed to building rostered talent through international signings, high quality MLS signings, development through their youth clubs, and the SuperDraft over the course of years, even decades in Seattle's case. Even then, they have off years.
Austin is not one of these teams. Not yet. We really only have one position that is "two-deep" (Meaning, there's serviceable back-ups that can replicate the style of our starters) and that's the Striker. We have one serviceable wing player right now (Rigoni) one player who can competently play the 10 (Driussi), The midfield is just Owen and Dani now that Ring is a CB, and CB is literally trotting out a Midfielder. Our Fullback is Gallagher and that's about it.
So, when we got fucking blasted by Houston on Saturday, how could anyone be surprised? The margin between Austin and Houston is and was never that wide, and Austin was on empty.
The ripples from the Violette game in the D.R. were felt into this week (and probably into this next weekend too). What broke down in that game has caused this loss. This team cannot rotate its roster, because it has no players to rotate. Coach Wolff is gun shy. He over rotated against Violette and he got embarrassed, but the outcome in Salt Lake shows that it was a semi-savvy move. This team can't compete on two fronts at the same time, but he was leveled by the media, and fans for it. And because of the score in that game, Josh didn't have a choice in the second leg. He had to start everyone.
That brings us to Saturday. Houston played its last game against the Revs on March 4th. In that span, Austin has played 3 games, two in which our starters played the full 90, and an intense 90 minutes (RSL and Violette). By the second half of that Houston Game, each of Austin's starters had accrued over 225 minutes of soccer in the last 7 days. This team did not have the legs to hold up in that second half, and it showed in the performance.
The difference between a wholly rested Austin and the Austin that trotted out in the second half is small. It's a missed touch here. An inaccurate ball there. A press that's a second or two late causing an overload the other way. A mental gaff where neither player even tries to stop a cross. In the span of a soccer game, each of these little missteps add up. Driussi was bad in this game, and who's to blame him. He basically had to beat Violette on his own. That Violette game took a lot out of this squad. They desperately wanted to win that game, and it took their legs out from under them in Houston.
On the bright side, we get a week off between all of our games until May when we face... Seattle... four days after playing Dallas. Man, who made this schedule anyways?
There's not much to gain from this game, but Valencia didn't kill us. I think that's a good development.
Fagundez and Wolff got into it when Fagundez was subbed off early. Wolff isn't in the wrong here. Fagundez doesn't look like himself out there, and he doesn't look fit either. With Finlay being an absolute 0 out there, we are in trouble.
This is also why no one can dog on Rigoni. Rigoni's effort is there. He's tracking back defensively, a LOT (2 clearences, 2 header clearences, two tackles), even after tons of minutes this last week. He's putting us in position and he and Gallagher are working magic on the right side. The left side is worthless right now, and upgrades need to be made either internally or externally to resolve this, or we'll continue to struggle to score.
Stuver has been really good for us this year, and boy do we need it. I hope he can keep this level of play up.
No Owen, or Leo for Saturday against Colorady. I'm worried.