Feeble Austin FC Escapes With Draw Against Red Bulls

Wolff: “Really, really proud of the effort”

Austin FC midfielder Jhojan Valencia attempts a pass versus the New York Red Bulls while center back Leo Väisänen looks on. (photo courtesy of Austin FC)

Austin FC was fortunate to eke out a 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls Wednesday night, escaping New Jersey with a measly point that every statistical measure would suggest it did not deserve.

El Tree managed just three shots to the Red Bulls’ 16, putting just one of those three on target. Fortunately for Austin, it came in the form of Sebastián Driussi’s equalizing header against the run of play in the 44th minute, the club’s first attempt at goal of the match.

As for the bigger picture, though, the Verde and Black lost the possession battle 40/60, completed a woeful 60% of their passes, and trailed in expected goals to the tune of 0.3 to 1.2. Adding insult to injury, the Red Bulls’ opening goal in the 7th minute came off an Emiliano Rigoni own goal. On the bright side, it’s refreshing to see the Argentine DP look threatening in front of somebody’s net.

It was a meager, uninspiring performance at a time of year when anything less than three points is simply not very useful to the Austin FC’s situation. The club is now pushing 10 weeks without a win in all competitions, and the MLS playoff line is beginning to disappear into the wide green yonder.

So, naturally, this all would be pretty upsetting to the team’s head coach, right? Well … evidently not.

“Really, really proud of the effort,” Josh Wolff said post-match. “I think the guys continue to show that they can compete, they can fight.”

Wolff had nothing but praise for his club throughout the 11-minute postgame presser, doubling down when asked if the draw was a satisfactory result for the club. “We’re pleased with a point,” the coach assured.

Wolff pointed out a #truefact that Red Bull Arena is generally a difficult place get results as a visiting team. Despite sitting one spot off the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the Red Bulls have dropped just four of 19 matches at home in all competitions this season. But if Austin has any speck of remaining belief that it can rescue this season in the final stages, it will require getting unlikely results in difficult situations.

It will certainly require better than what the club put on display Wednesday night.

Wolff’s lack of urgency certainly has appeared to rub off on his players, both on the pitch and off. At first instinct, center back Leo Väisänen was quick to echo the toxic positivity of his manager, saying, “It was a fight, one of those days where you can be happy with one point.”

Relieved? Sure, especially after the impotent effort put forth by the club through 90 minutes. But happy? Come on now.

When pressed further about the club’s lack of urgency, Väisänen seemed almost to snap out of a trance as the player’s pride and competitiveness began to break through. “Yeah, I think our fans deserve better. I think we’ve been – we are trying, it’s not that. Sometimes football is tough. But yeah, we’ve got to be stronger.”

Fortunately for Väisänen and his teammates, it’s not too late just yet. It’s damn close, but not just yet. Sunday night, the club hosts its most important and most emotional match of the season, welcoming the LA Galaxy and former club hero Diego Fagúndez back to Q2 Stadium. The Galaxy, sitting just one point behind Austin in the West, are also desperate for points to crack into the playoff picture, and are flying high after mounting a three-goal comeback win over Minnesota United Wednesday night, with Fagúndez scoring the winning goal.

Anything less than three points, and it’s game over for the Verde and Black.

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, New York Red Bulls, Josh Wolff, Sebastian Driussi, Emiliano Rigoni, Leo Vaisanen

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