Austin FC’s Season Ends With 3-0 Defeat to LAFC in West Final

Sophomore season showed how far the Verde and Black has come

Austin FC winger Diego Fagundez attempts a pass against LAFC in the MLS Western Conference Final. (Courtesy of Austin FC)

A transformational season for Austin FC, which saw the club rise from the bottom of the Western Conference in 2021 to its championship game in 2022, ended Sunday afternoon as the Verde and Black fell 3-0 to a thoroughly superior Los Angeles Football Club.

Goals from Cristian Arango, Kwadwo Opoku, and an own goal from Maxi Urruti combined to eliminate Austin FC from the MLS Cup Playoffs at the semifinal stage. Despite the noon local time kickoff, a fired-up LA crowd at Banc of California Stadium powered the home side to a relatively mistake-free performance in order to decisively beat Josh Wolff’s Austin FC side, which managed just one shot on target and seven shot attempts on the day.

El Tree struggled to get its attacking stars the ball in dangerous areas, limiting any impact that MVP finalist Sebastián Driussi could have on the match. Austin FC was the only club to beat LAFC, the Supporters’ Shield winners, twice in the regular season, but LA coach Steve Cherundolo had all the answers when it mattered most.

“Obviously, they did a fantastic job making it difficult on us today,” Wolff said. “They didn't give us a chance to breathe, they didn't allow us to build up, they were putting us under pressure.”

It was a scramble from the opening whistle for Austin FC’s back line as they attempted to fight off wave after wave of threatening attacks from Carlos Vela and Co. They managed to keep the Angelenos off the board until the 29th minute, when Arango got loose on a corner kick and scored off a header. A flurry of high danger chances followed for LAFC, and Austin was fortunate to make it to the halftime break down just one goal.

The Verde put together their best stretch of the match early in the second half but could not find the equalizer. In the 62nd minute, Urruti, who just moments earlier entered the match as a substitute, inadvertently directed an LAFC corner kick past Brad Stuver for an own goal.

It briefly looked like Austin FC would get a chance to get on the scoresheet in the 67th minute when VAR took a long look at a potential penalty against Diego Fagundez, but the contact in the penalty box was not deemed significant enough to warrant a spot kick. As Austin pushed numbers forward late, a mistake by Julio Cascante freed up Opoku to extend the LA lead to 3-0.

A sophomore season that showed just how far Austin FC has come since it entered the league ended with a match that revealed how far the club still has to go to reach the summit of MLS.

“As disappointing as today is, there's just so much pride in what we've been able to establish and build in two years, and those are things that we will take home with us,” Wolff said. “The development, the growth, the camaraderie, the relationships that we've built, we're gonna need to keep building on that… so look forward to next year, but it's just disappointing to swallow today.”

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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Austin FC, LAFC, Josh Wolff, MLS World Cup

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