Refereeing Blunders Pour Cold Water on Austin FC Season Finale

Verde face Real Salt Lake in Sunday playoff match at Q2

When Austin FC lines up for its first-ever playoff game next weekend, Sunday at 2pm CT, its fans will be glad not to see Pierre-Luc Lauziere anywhere near Q2 Stadium.

That’s because Lauziere, the referee for the Verde and Black’s 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids in Sunday’s regular season finale, oversaw what longtime MLS voice Adrian Healey called “one of the worst officiating displays I’ve witnessed.”

courtesy of Austin FC

Without much of anything for either side to play for, the idea for Austin was simple: put together a good performance and gather momentum ahead of the club’s first playoff appearance. It seemed as if that’s exactly where the night was headed when Sebastián Driussi deposited his 22nd goal of the season from the penalty spot in the 81st minute, breaking a scoreless tie. Less than a minute later, Diego Fagundez appeared to have doubled the lead and put a capper on the match and the season, but a phantom offside call and botched VAR review resulted in the goal being disallowed.

Things boiled over in stoppage time, when Lalas Abubakar committed an obvious foul on Driussi, which was missed. The sequence resulted in a corner kick for the Rapids that Diego Rubio headed into the Austin FC goal for a buzz-killing equalizer.

Instead of a rousing cheer at the final whistle to send the home side into the playoffs on a high, a cascade of boos from the Q2 stands directed at the refereeing crew proved to be the final image of Austin FC’s regular season.

“It’s tough to see,” said Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff said, who was suspended for the match for criticizing refereeing decisions in previous matches. “There’s an integrity in the game that’s not being maintained, unfortunately. But it's on to the playoffs."

The Oaks finished their second season with 56 points on 16 wins, 8 draws and 10 losses, good enough for a 25-point improvement over 2021. They managed just one win in their final seven matches, however.

Elsewhere, Real Salt Lake defeated the Portland Timbers to secure the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and earn the right to face Austin FC in the first round of the playoffs. Shortly after the conclusion of both matches, word came down that the teams will square off in arguably the top national window of the weekend: Sunday afternoon on ABC.

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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