Austin FC Leaves “Pissed Off” After Season-Sealing Loss To Minnesota United

MLS playoffs officially off the table

Austin FC midfielder Tómas Pochettino attempts a shot against Minnesota United at Q2 Stadium (photo by Jana Birchum)

A night that began with WWE legend and “World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry leading the Verde Wall in chant ended with Austin FC’s own induction into the Hall of Pain, losing 1-0 at home to Minnesota United and sealing mathematical elimination from the MLS playoffs.

End product was nowhere to be found on a brisk Saturday night at Q2 Stadium as Austin FC failed to turn 19 shots and 65% possession into anything of real substance, apart from two early looks at goal parried away by MNU keeper Tyler Miller.

The Loons, fighting for a playoff spot, capitalized on an unforced error by Alex Ring to score the game’s only goal by way of Franco Fragapane in the 16th minute. Minnesota manager Adrian Heath then set up defense in a low block for the remainder of the match, ceding the ball to ATXFC but clogging up all space for the Oaks to do much with it.

Coming off a two-week international break and with a fully rested squad at his disposal, Josh Wolff chose what was widely believed to be his best possible starting lineup for match No. 28 of 34. There were signs of continuity from the week just before the break when Austin FC took two wins out of three matches. Similar lineup, similar formation, and similar encouraging play for stretches, but without a similar result to show for it.

“I told our guys, ‘Don’t be disappointed, be pissed off,’” Wolff said post-match. “There was so much good in there, it’s not a performance to be disappointed [by]. It’s a result to be pissed off about.”

Tomás Pochettino, Žan Kolmanič, and Sebastián Driussi all had miss-hit shots in dangerous positions to be pissed off about. Alex Ring had his worst 90-minute shift of the season – punctuated by the giveaway leading to Minnesota’s goal – to be pissed off about. Austin fans had refereeing decisions to be pissed off about. Even the usually-zen goalkeeper Brad Stuver spoke on his frustration after the match.

“Sometimes this game can be super cruel. If you look at the stat lines and you watch that game you would know that, like, I think we deserved more out of that game,” Stuver said. “We had the chances, we were there in front of goal, the only chances they had were off mistakes that we made and they capitalized on one of them. So it’s a tough one just because I think we deserved so much more, and yeah, I think we’re all a little bit pissed off.”

The loss was Austin FC’s 18th on the season. No MLS team has more. With the possibility of postseason play now officially gone, the Football Club has five matches remaining to play for pride and little else as the focus turns squarely toward Year 2 for the infant franchise. That opposite-of-a-victory-lap begins Wednesday in San Jose as Austin FC plays the San Jose Earthquakes, also on the outside of the playoff picture.

But the Verde is going to be alright, if you ask MNU’s Heath. The former Everton midfielder coached the minor league Austin Aztex from 2008-2010 and understands the potential of soccer in the Texas capital.

“This club is going to go from strength to strength, for sure,” Heath said. “First season and it’s maybe not gone as well as they would like, but I can only see it growing. Along with LAFC, it was probably the best atmosphere we’ve had for a long, long time.”


Read more Austin FC coverage – including Eric Goodman’s weekly column, The Verde Report – at austinchronicle.com/austin-fc. Follow him on Twitter: @goodman.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Austin FC, Minnesotal United

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