This was the definition of a game of two halves. Visitors, Austin FC dominated the first period. The Canadian hosts owned the second 45. But just as when these two teams met 17 days ago in Texas, despite taking the lead, Austin ended up losing to Vancouver Whitecaps by a score of 2-1.
Vancouver beat Austin as Verde make a habit of second half letdowns
The first half might have been Austin’s most complete of the season. It’s certainly up there with a couple of halves from their two Portland Timbers contests. The Verde defense was well organized and largely untroubled. What they were asked to do they did with calm competence.
Austin characteristically dominated possession and created a slew of great chances. Diego Fagundez and Alex Ring, as per normal, providing the cut and thrust laterally and from back to front. Ahead of them, Jon Gallagher, Tomas Pochettino returned to the starting XI, and in particular, Sebastian Driussi were attacking livewires. They were complemented by Nick Lima playing an unusual left-back role.
Lima was exceptional, especially supporting the attack. His crosses could’ve led to two or three goals if only Gallagher could’ve timed his headers a little better, or Cecilo Dominguez had the instincts of a 9.
However, when the goal eventually did come, it originated down the other side of the field. Pochettino started it with an old-school knock the ball one side of his opponent and run around the other. His pass found Dominguez who, recognizing the shot wasn’t on, stopped the ball dead freezing his marker, then chipped an inviting ball into the box. Sebastian Driussi did the rest. A perfectly timed jump and a crisp connection down and back where it came from. A textbook header to give Austin a half-time lead.
— Austin FC (@AustinFC) September 5, 2021
Austin started the second half well enough, and after a few minutes probably thought they had avoided their second half jinx. However, the Whitecaps commitment to pressing the ball wherever it was on the field made it increasingly difficult for Austin to possess and create. Vancouver were making more of their possession, too, presenting challenges down both wings. Josh Wolff responded quickly – perhaps too quickly – removing Gallagher to accommodate a third center back, Jhohan Romana.
Brad Stuver was now the far busier of the two keepers. Stuver reacted sharply to tip Ryan Gauld’s cross-shot onto his crossbar. Then, his double-save to cover for a Julio Cascante loose backpass was nothing short of sensational. Matt Besler had to step off the field for concussion protocol. Austin had Freddy Kleeman lined up to replace the veteran defender. Kleeman wasn’t able to make his MLS debut until after the Whitecaps had equalized via a powerful header from Érik Godoy.
Despite throwing on Kekuta Maneeh, Jared Stroud, and Moussa Djitte late on, ATX were unable to generate anything truly threatening. It felt inevitable that were there to be a winning goal, the hosts would score it. And score it they did on 83 minutes courtesy of one of their substitutes, Déiber Caicedo. A late come-from-behind winner for Vancouver. For Austin, it was deja vu all over again.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) September 5, 2021
The Last Word
After a sparkling first-half performance, Josh Wolff may have shown his hand a little too quickly – and with it, possibly, a degree of coaching naivety – switching formation to accommodate three center backs on the hour mark. Battening down the hatches with 30 minutes still to play requires an extremely high degree of defensive discipline, for your attack to be able to relieve the pressure when needed, and for just about everything to go your way. The result tells the tale.