Capital Gaines Return for Austin FC, sealing victory over LA Galaxy

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The LA Galaxy were making a push for a home playoff spot. Austin FC had lost five straight matches. The outcome of this game was a foregone conclusion… right? A highly entertaining first 45 minutes suggested a contest very much in the balance. Then, Austin found a way to buck their trend this season of rolling over in the second half and were able to bring it home — at home — by a score of 2-0.

Austin, without suspended skipper Alex Ring, had to reshuffle the pack somewhat. Tomás Pochettino dropped in alongside Dani Pereira whenever Austin FC reverted to a defensive pose. When they attacked, he pushed upfield in an effort to get closer to captain-for-the-night Sebastian Driussi. For the most part, it worked offensively, less defensively. Austin missed Ring’s bite and ability to direct things from deep. Accordingly, the Galaxy were able to maintain possession in Austin’s half of the field far more than many previous visitors to Q2.

An entertaining first-half saw both keepers called into action, though Verde stopper Brad Stuver was undoubtedly the busier of the two. The cut and thrust opening half could have ended with just about any score. Instead, it ended with none. Driussi did put the ball in the back of the net, but he was adjudged to have fouled Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond in the process.

Romaña, Stuver shine in Austin FC second half

The Galaxy looked comfortable on the ball and perpetually dangerous. In the second half, Austin had to be prepared to fight, first and foremost. An early Galaxy goal against would undoubtedly have set off the usual ‘second-half collapse!’ alarm bells. Stuver stood firm in goal, supported by an incredibly impressive performance from Jhohan Romaña.

The young Columbian, without veteran Matt Besler alongside him or Ring in front of him, put Austin’s defense on his shoulders, largely minimizing chances for Chicharito and limiting LA to long-distance efforts.

At the other end of the field, Moussa Djitte was a constant handful for Galaxy defenders, just as he had been in Austin’s previous match versus San Jose. And on 64 minutes, the Senegalese striker got the reward for his efforts. He latched on to Driussi’s ball on the edge of the box, driving a powerful shot at Bond. When the ball deflected back out, the forward was the first to react. Djitte showed composure opening up his hips to guide his second effort into the top corner of the net. The only time this reporter has heard it louder in Q2 Stadium was when Jon Gallagher scored Austin’s first-ever home goal on July 1.

LA continued to enjoy the majority of possession, without converting it into anything meaningful. Sound familiar? Austin beat the Galaxy by playing the game so many traveling teams have deployed against Austin FC this season. Soak up the pressure, and maximize your time in possession. Hometown boy McKinze Gaines maximized his opportunity after being subbed in on 73 minutes.

Just five minutes later the Round Rock native controlled a fizzing Nick Lima cross from the right, and with his second touch hammered an unstoppable half-volley top bins! With that strike, Gaines became the first Austin-born player to score for the Verde.

Last Words on Austin vs. LA Galaxy

No Ring, No Besler, no problem. Last night, Austin found a couple of new Verde heroes.

It was a thoroughly professional performance from Austin FC, resulting in perhaps their most credible victory of the season thus far versus five-time MLS Cup champions. In truth, the game could’ve gone either way. Both teams gave battling performances. Both teams created enough chances to win the match.

However, despite all that was good from both teams in the middle of the park, the difference was at either end of the field. Yes, Austin offered a good all-around team performance, but Stuver, Romana, Djitte and Gaines were the difference at key moments.

 

Photo: Austin FC.