Austin FC Steals Win in Houston With Rigoni Winner

Embattled DP comes up big with 86th-minute match-winning goal

Austin FC winger Emiliano Rigoni scores the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo at Shell Energy Stadium (credit: Austin FC)

Never doubt the power of green on 4/20. Austin FC captured its first away win of the 2024 season Saturday night against the Houston Dynamo, thanks to a stunning goal by winger Emiliano Rigoni which broke a 0-0 stalemate in the 86th minute.

The Verde and Black were lucky to escape Houston without a pending court case for grand larceny after they pilfered three points from a match in which they trailed in all major statistical categories (35% to 65% in possession, 7 to 17 in shots, 0.8 to 1.5 in expected goals). But Rigoni gave Austin one crucial moment of individual brilliance, and in this sport, often times that's all it takes to make the difference.

It was the definition of “a goal from nowhere,” as it came immediately following an innocuous Brad Stuver goal kick. Innocuous, that is, until substitute CJ Fodrey – making his first appearance of the season for the ATX senior team – leapt to head the ball through toward the Houston goal. Rigoni reacted first, split two Dynamo defenders, then beat goalkeeper Steve Clark with a left-footed shot that ricocheted off the far post and in.

“I’m really happy to give [my teammates] that goal,” Rigoni said via an interpreter. “This group is fantastic. The connection that we have is great and you can tell like today for example, when I made the goal everyone was so happy for me and that's how we always are.”

Rigoni, the club’s second highest-paid player behind Sebastián Driussi, had struggled mightily through the first quarter of the season and recently lost his place in the ATX starting XI.

“When the opportunity fell for Emi, I think his first touch was fantastic and he finished it extremely well. And you know, it’s not easy [when] you don’t play the minutes that you probably want,” head coach Josh Wolff said of his embattled designated player.

Defensively, Austin held firm despite the absence of center backs Leo Väisänen (foot injury) and Julio Cascante (yellow card accumulation suspension). Veterans Brendon Hines-Ike and Matt Hedges played confidently in front of goalkeeper Brad Stuver, who extended his MLS saves lead with six more, including three of the highlight variety. Stuver earned his second clean sheet of the season.

The win improved Austin FC’s stellar record against its in-state rival to six wins in nine matches, and lifted the club to seventh place in the ever-fluctuating Western Conference standings. The last several weeks have been profitable ones for El Tree with three wins from its last four matches.

Next up, Austin returns home for a marquee Saturday matinee (12:45 kick off) against the LA Galaxy, who’ve lost just once so far this season.

For more Austin FC news and analysis, visit The Austin Chronicle's Austin FC hub. Follow “The Verde Report” columnist Eric Goodman on X: @goodman.

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MLS, Austin FC, Houston Dynamo, Emiliano Rigoni

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