Austin FC Sluggish in Disappointing Draw Against Colorado Rapids

Jon Gallagher scores sole goal, leading team in early season

Goalkeeper Brad Stuver makes one of his seven saves during Austin FC's draw against the Colorado Rapids. (credit: Austin FC)

Austin FC isn’t a great watch at the moment. Just one week after getting blanked by the Houston Dynamo in a 2-0 defeat, the Verde and Black returned to Q2 Stadium and allowed the struggling Colorado Rapids to exit with a 1-1 draw that, if anything, flattered the home team.

Any early goal by Jon Gallagher ended up being one of just three shots on target for Austin, who needed goalkeeper Brad Stuver at his vintage best to deny seven such strikes from Colorado. The eighth, though, found the back of the net to cost El Tree a win that it really never deserved.

With Leo Väisänen on international duty in Finland, Julio Cascante still on the mend from an adductor strain, and both Kipp Keller and Amro Tarek in the doghouse thanks to nightmare early-season performances, Austin FC entered the match without a single natural center back in the squad. All things considered, the patchwork pairing of Alex Ring (a midfielder) and Nick Lima (an outside back) did an admirable job, even if Stuver still needed a man-of-the-match performance to keep Austin in it.

“I was just doing my best to keep the ball out of the back and just give us a chance,” Stuver said. “We knew that we were going to be a little short-handed with Leo gone for national team duty and credit to Nick and Ring for stepping up in those positions. It’s extremely difficult to play out of position, especially in a very structured way that we like to play.”

For most of the match, Austin defended a 1-0 lead thanks to the combination of its two most in-form players. In the fifth minute, Sebastián Driussi dribbled through multiple Colorado defenders and spotted the well-timed run from Gallagher down the right flank (so well-timed, in fact, that it looked to the naked eye like an obvious offside play, though VAR ruled otherwise). Gallagher took one touch to his left, then passed the ball into the net for his team-leading third goal of the season.

“I took off because I know if there’s one player on the field that can find me, it’s [Sebastián],” Gallagher said. Relishing his top goalscorer status, he said, “I’ll take it. I can’t imagine it’ll last that much longer.”

That would be the hope, anyway. As well as Gallagher has played, the fact that an outside back is currently the club’s only player with multiple MLS goals speaks to how futile Austin FC’s front line has looked so far this season. Once again, Gyasi Zardes and Emiliano Rigoni were largely nowhere to be found in the opponent’s penalty box, combining for just two shot attempts (neither on frame). Diego Fagúndez came off the bench and failed to impact the game. Overall, the lack of goalscoring remains a massive issue for the club.

“This was a struggle in a few departments,” head coach Josh Wolff said. “We’ve put our hallmark in being an attacking team. That wasn’t our best version of us tonight.”

In the 85th minute, longtime nemesis Michael Barrios once again came off the bench to terrorize Austin FC, darting up the right flank past Ring and finding Kevin Cabral for the tap-in equalizer, resulting in two points dropped for the Verde and Black at home.

Austin FC next heads out west to take on defending MLS Cup Champions LAFC in a daunting road test on Saturday.

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, Colorado Rapids, Jon Gallagher, Alex Ring, Brad Stuver, Nick Lima, Josh Wolff

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