Austin FC Finds “Turning Point” Moment With Upset Win in Seattle

Finlay, Zardes goals break winless streak

Winger Ethan Finlay gives Austin FC a 1-0 lead over the Seattle Sounders with a surgical strike in the first half. (credit: Austin FC)

Austin FC snapped its 8-game MLS winless streak against the unlikeliest of opponents in the unlikeliest of places Wednesday night, toppling the West-leading Seattle Sounders, 2-1, at Lumen Field.

A pair of excellent goals from Ethan Finlay and Gyasi Zardes earned ATXFC its first victory over the Sounders in club history, as well as its first-ever win in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, Vancouver, Portland). The three points could not have come at a better time for the Verde and Black.

“For the guys, it’s real validation,” Josh Wolff said. “It’s been awhile. Too long [since the last win]. We’ve had many missed opportunities.”

Wednesday night, though, was a story of opportunities taken. Seattle held the majority of possession throughout the match and attempted nearly double the amount of shots as Austin, but while the Sounders failed to capitalize on their volume of chances, the Verde and Black made the most of theirs.

One 60-second stretch in the first half exemplified that perfectly. In the 35th minute, Seattle created one of its best chances of the match as winger Dylan Teves got in behind the Austin back line, with only goalkeeper Brad Stuver between the Sounders and a 1-0 lead. But Stuver made himself big, denying the close range shot, and sending Austin the other way with the ball.

Then, Austin struck. On the left flank, Emiliano Rigoni picked out a smart run from Adam Lundkvist toward the end line, who shuffled a cutback pass to Finlay at the top of the box. Finlay took one touch with his left foot, popping the ball in the air slightly, then hammered it on the half-volley past Stefan Frei into the bottom corner.

“We talked a lot about the cutback space… I mean, I’ve got to give the coaching staff some props there, we talked a lot about it,” Finlay said. “You know, it was right off the training ground to be honest with you.”

On the opposite end of halftime, Austin doubled its lead through the most refreshing of sources. This time it was Finlay getting to the end line and swinging in a dangerous cutback cross into the box, where goal-starved striker Zardes rose to head the ball off the far post and in for his long-awaited first Austin FC goal.

“Hopefully it opens the floodgates for ‘G’,” Wolff said of his yellow-haired No. 9. “His spirit will never be broken. His determination is awesome, and he’s a goal scorer. So at the end of the day, he’ll score goals.”

It proved to be one that Austin would desperately need, because the Sounders were not to be held scoreless on their home turf. In the 79th minute, substitute and Sounders legend Freddy Montero got free in the middle of the 18-yard box and calmly wrapped his shot around Stuver into the net, cutting the Austin lead in half.

Then, in the 84th minute Stuver again stood tall to deny Jordan Morris at close range, repelling Seattle’s best chance at a comeback and preserving the upset for Austin.

“No one thought we were gonna come here and win the game and probably win the game in the way that we did,” Finlay said. “So this is hopefully going to be an important moment for us that we’ll be able to look back on and say, ‘Hey, that was a turning point in our season.’ But we have to keep grinding. That’s what we did tonight. We grinded it out and we found a way to win.”

The victory brings Austin within one point of the Western Conference playoff picture, with a golden opportunity Saturday night to string two wins together for the first time all season. ATX hosts Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers Toronto FC at Q2 Stadium at 7:30pm.

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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Eric Goodman
The Verde Report: #WOLFDUT: Austin FC Fans Misfire With Pregame Aerial Display
The Verde Report: #WOLFDUT: Austin FC Fans Misfire With Pregame Aerial Display
Is now really the right time to be calling for Coach’s head?

July 19, 2024

Austin FC Falls to Seattle Sounders Amid Fan Protests
Austin FC Falls to Seattle Sounders Amid Fan Protests
“Wolff out” call escalates as club dips below playoff line

July 14, 2024


Austin FC, Ethan Finlay, Gyasi Zardes, Brad Stuver, Seattle Sounders, Josh Wolff

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle