Austin FC Stunned By USL’s San Antonio FC in Open Cup Defeat

Coach Wolff: “We’ll have to lick our wounds quick”

Over 1,000 Austin FC fans made the trip to Toyota Field in San Antonio for Austin FC’s clash with San Antonio FC (Photo by Eric Goodman)

In its very first U.S. Open Cup match ever, Austin FC experienced first-hand exactly what makes the nationwide tournament so special. Unfortunately for them, that meant coming out on the wrong end of an irresistible underdog story.

In front of a sellout crowd of 8,000 at Toyota Field, USL Championship side San Antonio FC captured the defining moment of its seven-year existence with a 2-1 win over Austin FC in extra time Wednesday night. It was the club’s first-ever win against a team from Major League Soccer, and it sent a shell-shocked Austin FC squad – along with over 1,000 Verde fans – back up I-35 with an hour’s drive to come to grips with such sudden elimination from the nation’s oldest soccer tournament.

In fact, the Open Cup – which includes every professional team sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation – was the only format in which the two clubs separated by just 80 miles could meet in a competitive match. For one night only, the largely untapped sports rivalry between Austin and San Antonio got to play out over 120 minutes on the pitch and in the stands, and it was pure electricity.

Romance and narrative aside, though, the match goes down as Austin FC’s most shocking and embarrassing loss in its short history. According to Transfermarkt, the total value of San Antonio’s roster checks in at around $5 million. Austin FC’s aggregate value is seven times that. Sebastián Driussi alone commands a market value of nearly $8 million, dwarfing the entire SAFC roster. (Driussi, somewhat surprisingly, started Wednesday’s match in a clear indicator of Austin FC’s intent to not to mess around.) There’s just no excuse for a club with such advantages in talent and resources to come up short. But that’s the beauty of sports.

“[The players] are bummed out. They’re certainly pissed off now,” Josh Wolff said post-match. “This was certainly important to them, our owners, our fans, and that’s disappointing.”

And yet, Austin FC was just eight minutes from escaping with a 1-0, nothing-to-see-here win in 90 minutes. After a largely even and uneventful first half, Diego Fagundez broke the ice in the 47th minute, burying a stellar Driussi pass into the top of the San Antonio net. It felt like all the Verde would need to advance.

But things got dicey later in the half as both ATXFC center backs found themselves unable to finish the match. In the 64th minute, Julio Cascante exited with a knee injury that Wolff later called “concerning.” And in the 72nd, Kipp Keller succumbed to cramping, leaving the Oaks with a makeshift center back pairing of Ruben Gabrielsen and (usual left back) Žan Kolmanič.

And in the 82nd minute, San Antonio striker Elliot Collier took advantage of a defensive miscue to level the score 1-1 and force the match into extra time. Just five minutes into the bonus period, Carter Manley out-jumped Kolmanič for a header to give SAFC the improbable lead, which goalkeeper Jordan Farr protected despite a last-ditch effort from the Verde and Black to force penalties.

“These games, it doesn’t matter if you’re USL or MLS. If you have a chance you need to bury it, and they did that,” Fagundez said.

Though the Oaks will have to wait another full year for their second crack at an Open Cup match, they only have to wait a matter of three days for a return to MLS action Saturday night, at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps at 7:30pm. Austin FC currently sits second in the Western Conference standings and has a chance to win three consecutive *MLS* matches for the first time in club history.

“We’ll have to lick our wounds quick,” Wolff said.

For more Austin FC news and analysis, visit the Austin Chronicle's Austin FC hub. Follow The Verde Report columnist Eric Goodman on Twitter: @goodman.

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