As usual, the Black and Verde vibe at Q2 set the tone for the latest MLS Texas derby Tuesday night. One thing was hard to ignore… the supporters’ section (or lack thereof) for Houston Dynamo. Could it be that the Dynamo fan base predicted the outcome of the game, making it not so worth the three-hour drive?
Before the match, Austin FC held the #2 seat in the table while Houston Dynamo FC sat in 12th. Based on standings alone, the odds were in favor of Austin FC; however, Houston just acquired superstar Hector Herrera making the game a possible wild card match.
Herrera’s soccer resume boasts titles such as current captain of the Mexican National Team and the Mexican player with the most EUFA Champions League appearances in history. He also left his mark in the Primeira Liga, making over 200 appearances for the Portuguese club, Porto.
Herrera comes to Houston after two seasons with Atletico Madrid, with the last being injury-ridden. While Herrera now strives to leave a mark in the MLS despite being on the “wrong” side of 30, his 20-minute appearance wasn’t enough to overthrow the Austin FC powerhouse.
A player with a resume like Herrera is sure to make a difference on any team; however, he was unable to convert any goals for Houston after being subbed in at the 80th minute. Many people wonder why he didn’t start for the Dynamo and if he could have made a difference earlier in the game.
Based on the little time he had on the pitch, it looked as though he might have found some difficulty meshing with his teammates. While star players are salient, we all know it takes 11 players to win a match. It may be that the team needs a little more time playing together to capitalize on Herrera’s talents fully.
One thing is for sure, Austin FC and Houston Dynamo fans alike showed no shame in walking down the stadium stairs to the first row to ask Herrera for a pic during his warm-up. Anything for the Gram!
Only 11 minutes in, the game’s first goal came from Houston Dynamo FC’s Adalberto Carasquilla, catching Austin FC completely off-guard. Adalberto Carasquilla went toe to toe with center back Julio Cascante, who eventually took a tumble, allowing Carasquilla a small look at the goal where he slipped it in past Stuver and two other players.
In true Austin FC fashion, the boys struck back a mere 4 minutes later thanks to Diego Fagundez capitalizing on a free-kick opportunity.
Urruti added another quality goal to the score sheet from the left side of the box that bent into the opposite lower 90 in the 58th minute from an assist by recently named MLS All-Star Sebastian Driussi.
While many players on the Austin FC side deserve MLS All-Star status, Driussi’s vision of the field and role in initiating the attack is unparalleled. However, on the opposite end of the pitch is Austin FC keeper Brad Stuver, who is a man of the community, has made MLS Team of the Week numerous times, and is a clear stand-out in the MLS. Many have questioned why he wasn’t chosen to the MLS All-Star Team.
In the post-match press conference, Brad was asked about not being named to the All-Star Team and answered, “I’m a little bummed out. I’m not going to lie about that. I’m a little bummed out that I’m not going to be in Minnesota with Sebastian. We’re all super pumped for him. We’re so excited, and he deserves it more than anybody else.… At the end of the day, the more important thing is where the team is at the end of the season and how we’re doing throughout that time.”
Spoken like a true sportsman. Austin FC’s depth is apparent as there are 12 players with points on the board, with Driussi leading the pack at 11 goals and 4 assists. Speaking of depth, some notable key subs who made a difference this game were center midfielder Dani Perreira who came in for Owen Wolff, and Defender Nick Lima, who came in for injured Hector Jimenez. Sources have reported that Jimenez will be out for six or more weeks.
The final goal for Austin FC came from a diving header by Alex Ring off a cross from Ethan Finlay.
Up next, Austin FC takes their efforts on the road as they face FC Dallas, who house two superstar forwards, Jesus Ferreira and Paul Arriola. The last match between the two teams ended in a tie.
You can expect this to be the ultimate Texas derby as both teams fight for the Copa Tejas trophy.
In the last match, Austin retained possession but stagnated in the attacking third. If they can compose creative runs early on, act quickly during their transitions into the attacking third, and spread out FC Dallas’ back line, you will see a successful result from the Black and Verde. As for FC Dallas, the key for them lies in their midfielders taking more initiation in the attack. The few chances FC Dallas had in the previous game were clinical, showing-off diagonal runs and passes that can split any back line.
Austin FC will take the game if they can keep their back line stitched tight, connected, and wingers pinched in.
Kick-off is set for Saturday at 8 pm and can be watched on ESPN+.
Katie Goodman on Twitter @imkatiegoodman
San Antonio Sports Star Soccer Analyst