Austin FC Finds Its Joy in Rejuvenating Win Against Portland Timbers
RECAP: 3-1 victory sets up string of winnable matches
By Eric Goodman,
10:36AM, Sun. Aug. 22, 2021
After a trio of damning August losses, Austin FC brought winning soccer back to Q2 Stadium in electrifying fashion Saturday with a 3-1 dismissal of the Portland Timbers.
Cecilio Domínguez, Diego Fagundez, and Sebastián Driussi all scored inside the first half hour to ignite the Verde party and give Austin FC’s inaugural season a defibrillation shock heading into a crucial stretch of winnable matches in the coming weeks.
Domínguez was the catalyst early and often, starting the match at striker just three days after being embarrassingly substituted inside 30 minutes in Austin FC’s 2-1 defeat against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Having clearly shaken off the illness that, according to head coach Josh Wolff, contributed to his sluggish and ineffective play Wednesday, Domínguez was confident and direct on the ball against Portland and drew Austin FC’s first-ever penalty kick in the seventh minute.
After a VAR review of several minutes awarded the spot kick, Domínguez stepped up to the mark and struck an excellent penalty low to the goalkeeper’s left to give Austin the early 1-0 lead.
If the four prior Austin FC wins revealed anything, it’s that once the Verde get an early goal, more are likely to follow. The Timbers learned that lesson July 1, coming out on the short end of a 4-1 Austin victory for the expansion club’s memorable first win at Q2. Saturday, Portland got a refresher as Fagundez struck in the 14th minute.
Decisive and purposeful Austin passing found Nick Lima in space on the right flank with runners crashing in on Portland’s goal. Lima swung a pinpoint accurate cross to the head of Fagundez, who nodded the ball into the net for his fourth goal – one off Domínguez for the team lead.
Fagundez was at the center of things 15 minutes later, collecting the rebound of a saved Jon Gallagher shot, then finding the right foot of newly acquired attacker Sebastián Driussi, who scored his first Austin FC goal with a deadly first-time finish. The joy on the pitch at 3-0 was feverish.
“I think everybody was having fun today, and it wasn’t just [because of] the goals,” Fagundez said. “We were actually playing good soccer and it was a lot of fun to see.”
Portland pulled one goal back in the 55th minute from a Dairon Asprilla shot from outside the box which knuckled past Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver. Shortly after, Wolff replaced Driussi for an extra defender and ATX comfortably saw out the victory.
In the post-match press conference, Wolff, notably wearing a shade of green for the first time all season, was bullish on his team’s potential. “We’ve had, certainly, our lumps. We’ve taken our hits, but tonight was a good moment. The guys enjoyed themselves and we all saw on the field what it can look like when we play at a high level,” Wolff said.
“We play in the best stadium in front of the best fans and we play the best football in Texas. That’s no doubt in my mind. Whether it’s Portland or somebody else, we have to stick to what we’re good at.”
Austin FC has a golden opportunity to pick up points in the coming weeks and get back in the mix for a playoff spot. The Verde’s next three opponents – FC Dallas (8/29), Vancouver Whitecaps (9/4), and Houston Dynamo (9/11) – make up, along with Austin, the bottom four teams in the Western Conference. ATX squandered opportunities against Dallas and Vancouver earlier in August.
Perhaps relevant: Wolff was not wearing green for either match. That will likely change. “Clearly the green will be sticking around for a little bit,” the coach said coyly.