AUSTIN – Bragging rights and a leg-up in the Copa Tejas were on offer tonight in this latest Texas Derby. Austin FC had beaten Houston Dynamo earlier in the season when the two met at Q2 stadium. When the next squared off in Houston, the Dynamo put a beat-down on a below-par ATX by a score of 3-0. Tonight represented the decider, and Austin appeared determined to come out on top – which they did with an impressive 2-1 win.
Austin FC beat Houston Dynamo again to earn bragging rights
Austin started, as they typically do at home, in encouraging fashion. They absorbed Houston’s high press before springing down the flanks via Diego Fagundez and Cecilio Dominguez. It was the Paraguayan who would make the difference just six minutes in when some clever footwork inside the Dynamo box drew a clumsy tackle. The referee had no hesitation in awarding what was a stone-cold penalty kick.
Josh Wolff couldn’t look as Dominguez placed the ball on the spot. He could have missed one of the most bizarre penalties this reporter has ever seen in person, but revealed post-match that he was watching on the big screen. Dominguez struck the ball confidently to the keepers right where it hit the base of the post flew across the goalmouth and hit the other post before appearing to clip the back of Marko Marić and then roll over the line! They all count, even if the tally gets recorded as an own goal!
Houston continued to look dangerous and creative around the box, with some lovely flicks, chips, and back heels. Fortunately for Austin, none of their final efforts proved particularly difficult for Brad Stuver to deal with. At the end of the first half the hosts, off the back of some nice attacking moments themselves, extended their lead. Sebastian Driussi was the model of calm and class-on-the-grass bending the ball around his marker and past Marić to send Verde into the break two goals to the good.
The question with Austin is always how will they do in the second period. ATX are notoriously slow re-starters, oftentimes allowing opposition right back into games. Not tonight. Austin came out primed and on the front foot, and in the first 10 minutes could’ve legitimately doubled their lead.
Man of the Match Driussi had an excellent sight on goal when Fagundez surprised everyone by rolling a free-kick into his path. A few minutes later and it was Dominguez just inside the box, drawing another full length save from Marić as Verde’s No. 10 tried to bend his shot toward the back post. Ring, fed by Driussi, as is so often the case, drew the best out of Marić again with another full-length tip around the post. Were it not for the Dynamo shot-stopper being at his, well, dynamic best, ATX could have put this game to bed well before the final whistle.
Instead, Houston made sure the game remained interesting to the last. In stoppage time, live-wire substitute Ariel Lassiter (who this reporter last saw playing USL in Colorado Springs a few years ago when as a member of LA Galaxy II he tormented the Switchbacks) fizzed a low cross into the box which hit Nick Lima, then the unfortunate Julio Cascante, whose inadvertently turned the ball into his own net. Several Houston corners followed during a period of pressure from the visitors. But Austin held out to secure a deserved win and set up a delicious Copa Tejas showdown v FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium next Saturday.
Austin deserved their win tonight. The victory was particularly impressive when you consider the outcome the last time these teams met. Houston really put ATX to the sword on that occasion. Verde demonstrated a great deal of grit throughout this latest contest, though, even exorcising the ghost of bad second-half starts. The forward line will get all the plaudits. But much of the kudos needs to go to their backline. Stuver, Cascante, Romana, Jimenez, and the especially impressive Nick Lima, who never shies from a fight, provided the foundation for the 3 points that followed.