Don’t look now, but Austin FC is on its way to becoming a rather fearsome road team in MLS. The Oaks passed their latest away test Thursday night in Appalachia, defeating expansion side Charlotte FC 1-0 thanks to pragmatic defending and one cathartic strike from returning midfielder Dani Pereira.
Pereira came off the bench at the hour mark for his first action since a rather egregious sending-off against CF Montréal on June 18. The red card not only earned Pereira a suspension for the following match against FC Dallas, but also cost him a modicum of trust in the eyes of Austin FC coach Josh Wolff, who said it “would not have been right” for the 21-year-old midfielder to start in his first match back in the squad.
But once Pereira got his opportunity, he wasted zero time putting everything in the rearview. His first touch of the match passed Nick Lima into open space, igniting an Austin FC counterattack. His second touch of the match finished that counterattack, smoking a shot from distance off the underside of the crossbar and over the goal line for the eventual game winner.
“I was just like, if I get it, I’m ripping it,” Pereira said. “I owed it to my teammates for Montréal, for letting them down.”
Pereira, who grew up in neighboring Virginia and attended Virginia Tech University, had extra motivation to put on a show inside Bank of America Stadium. “My parents were here in the stands, hadn’t seen them in a while. Also high school friends, college friends … I had like 50 people here just for me,” Pereira said. “Yeah, I think this was the most meaningful goal.”
Meaningful too in that it secured Austin FC’s fifth road win of the season, tying with Nashville SC and New York Red Bulls for tops in MLS. The 3 points also elevated the Verde’s point total to 31, becoming just the second MLS club to eclipse the 30-point mark. Perhaps even more significantly, it’s the same point total that Austin FC collected during its entire 34-game regular season in 2021. The club needed just 17 – exactly half as many – to achieve that mark this season.
“Last year was a foundation for us. It established what we wanted to do and who we wanted to be,” Wolff said. “We have objectives and goals that we want to achieve this year to put us in a place to be in the playoffs and compete for trophies.”
Austin FC’s next road test comes swiftly against the Colorado Rapid on Monday, July 4. Q2 Stadium will be in the safe, calloused hands of Willie Nelson while that match plays out.
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