Austin FC Falls Flat in SoCal as Chicharito Scores Seventh Goal
RECAP: Back-to-back losses have ATXFC feeling growing pains
By Eric Goodman,
7:59PM, Sat. May 15, 2021
Those darn Californians.
Austin FC’s second trip out west to Los Angeles looked remarkably similar to its first, when the Verde lost 2-0 to LAFC in the season opener. This time, the opponent – MLS mainstays and five-time champs LA Galaxy – was different, but the result was the same.
The Galaxy got goals from its two North American internationals, American midfielder Sebastian Lletget in the first half and Mexican star striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández in the second, to put away the visiting Texans in a Saturday matinee at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Austin FC struggled mightily to get any kind of foothold in the game in the first half. The Galaxy dominated possession to the tune of over 60% through the first half-hour, and had little difficulty navigating an Austin FC midfield weakened without team captain and centerpiece Alex Ring. Ring was suspended for the game due to picking up a red card in Austin FC’s previous match. ATX head coach Josh Wolff re-inserted Daniel Pereira into the starting lineup to replace Ring, but it was too much to ask of the rookie Venezuelan.
Austin dodged a major bullet in the 26th minute when goalkeeper Brad Stuver dove to his left to save a well-struck Chicharito penalty, which the former Real Madrid and Manchester United forward earned by drawing ATX defender Jhohan Romaña into a clumsy foul in the 18-yard box. Nine minutes later though, Lletget broke in behind Austin’s back line, clattered into right back Hector Jimenez, and curled a right-footed shot inside the far post to put Los Angeles ahead. Jimenez did not get up from the action and had to be stretchered off the field injured. By the end of the first half, Austin FC was fortunate to only be down one goal.
“We’re lacking a bit of energy,” Wolff said at the halftime break. “We look a little tired, so I’ve got to get in there and get these guys ready to compete in the second half.”
His players responded. For a 15-minute stretch between 60 and 75 minutes, after Wolff had brought in three substitutes (including winger Kekuta Manneh), Austin FC looked like they might draw level. The visitors started building the kind of possession they have become accustomed to, and Manneh nearly scored his first goal of the season on three or four occasions. But they left themselves vulnerable to the counter attack and the Galaxy pounced. In the 77th minute, Julian Araujo whipped a cross into Austin’s penalty box and found the feet of a charging Chicharito, who poached his league-leading seventh goal through five games and ended the Verde’s hopes of getting a result from the game.
After winning two of its first three matches to start the season, Austin FC has now dropped two straight and faces three more difficult road matchups – Nashville, Seattle, and Kansas City – before the home opener June 19. The debut season growing pains are beginning to show, but Austin’s players, even veterans in the later stages of their careers like center back Matt Besler, are not discouraged.
“I understand that it’s going to be a process and we are in the fifth game of our existence, and so I don’t think we can’t expect things to be perfect,” Besler said after the game. “The fact that we’re at where we are at, I think, is a good sign, because we’re going to continue to build and continue to get better.”
Austin FC will have an extra day of rest to prepare for another nationally televised match, its fourth in six weeks, against Nashville SC on Sunday, May 23, at 8:30pm on FS1.