PORTLAND – On a sunny LA day back in April, Austin lost 2-0 to LAFC in their inaugural MLS match. In their final game of the 2021 season this past weekend, they went down 3-0 to the Timbers in a drizzly, cold Portland. Though the two games saw Austin register a goose egg, the two experiences couldn’t have been more different.
Third times a charm for Portland Timbers, finally get revenge on Austin FC
The LAFC game was an exciting, cut and thrust contest. This past weekend, ATX looked flat and uninspired. Perhaps that was a product of their season already being over? Regardless, in year where Austin have struggled, but have still produced some outstanding results (among the more noticeable, the two heavy victories v Portland at Q2 Stadium), head coach Josh Wolff wouldn’t have been happy to see a performance so lacking in intensity.
Austin got off to what appeared the perfect start when Diego Fagundez bundled his way through the Timbers defense, before dispatching the game-opening goal. The referee had other ideas, adjudging Fagundez to have handled the ball in the build-up. And that was about as good as it got for Austin FC.
The Timbers took over the offense and kept on coming. ATX keeper Brad Stuver and his backline were called into action time again, Stuver in particular, standing on his head in an effort to keep Portland out. On the 17th minute, with a sense of inevitability, the Cascadian’s broke through, Cristhian Parades taking advantage of some sloppy defending. That sloppy Austin defending remained in evidence throughout the first 45. Before half-time, the livewire that is Yimmi Chara picked Žan Kolaminč’s pocket, feeding Jaroslaw Niezgoda for Portland’s second goal.
At half-time, the Timbers had out-shot Austin 12-1.
The second half, sadly for Austin, was largely more of the same. Verde skipper Alex Ring, being deployed once more in central defense, didn’t look anywhere near as assured in this match as he had done in the previous one, the impressive 3-1 victory over SKC. Beyond just Ring, though, ATX appeared generally disconnected. There were too many individual mistakes and not enough accountability. Everything was one-note and largely played in front of the Timbers defense, making it all too easy for them.
As if to underscore the need to change up the attack on occasion, Portland did just that for their 3rd goal on 53 minutes. Of the three Sebastian’s on the field, the one playing for Portland looked the most effective. Sebastian Blanco, having provided the assist for the first goal, raced on to a hopeful long punt. He and Niezgoda combined to get the better of four Austin defenders before Niezgoda chipped Stuver for Blanco to tap into an empty, deservedly securing his spot on the MLS Team of Week.
Austin’s offensive Sebastian, Driussi, having his quietest match in a Verde jersey, finally showed a flash of his usual flair on the 80th minute. His determination to ride a couple of tackles opened up a shooting channel just inside the Portland box, but the Argentinians’ rip straight at Timbers keeper Steve Clark just about summed up the visitor’s night. Portland’s players got their revenge; Austin’s get to head out on vacation earlier than they would’ve wanted as the curtain came down rather ignominiously on the first-ever MLS season.