With both teams hungry for points, everything is set up for an intriguing midweek test
Few MLS teams are in better form right now than Austin FC. Winners of three of their last five games and in competition for the MLS Shield with 51 points, Austin is flying high. Last Friday, they put the rest of the league on notice with a 4-1 win over league-leaders LAFC on national TV.
But the Portland Timbers have momentum of their own after winning their first Cascadia Cup under head coach Giovanni Savarese with a 2-1 win against the Seattle Sounders.
With both teams hungry for points, everything is set up for an intriguing midweek test in Austin (6 p.m. PT, FOX 12 PLUS). Here are three things to watch as Timbers and Austin FC clash deep in the heart of Texas:
How will Portland slow Austin’s torrid attack?
Portland’s defense faces a true test Wednesday afternoon: no other team has matched the 27 goals Austin FC has scored since the beginning of July.
Slowing Austin down first means interrupting a fluid offense led by MLS MVP candidate Sebastián Driussi (19 goals, 7 assists). Additionally, Diego Fagúndez is hitting the form he hasn’t played with since his days in New England. Meanwhile, former Timber Maxi Urruti can still heat up in an instant, which he displayed with two goals in four minutes against LAFC.
It will certainly require a team effort for the Timbers come Wednesday night, but Diego Chará and Claudio Bravo figure to play pivotal roles. If Eryk Williamson continues to flash his form in midfield and the Timbers’ attackers find a rhythm, the visitor’s could push Austin with a solid attack of their own.
Portland looks to rewrite history in Austin
Austin’s brand-new Q2 Stadium quickly became a house of horrors for the Timbers last season. Savarese’s team fell behind early in both its 3-1 and 4-1 losses in Texas’ capital, but 2022 presents a new opportunity to take rare points from the Lone Star State.
With Austin FC clicking on all cylinders the Timbers will need to play a nearly-flawless game in front of what promises to be a rocking atmosphere. Scoring a goal or two early and eliminating the home crowd would go a long way toward helping the Timbers find a result.
Finding any points in Austin at the moment is a difficult task for any MLS team, especially on short rest. But Portland has the tools to get the job done and is riding high after beating the Sounders and returning to winning ways. Picking up a first-ever win in Austin would do a lot to continue to spark momentum.
Taking a glimpse at the playoffs
With 36 points, Portland sits just a single point outside of the Western Conference playoff picture but can potentially jump to 5th place with a draw in Austin and a few other helpful results.
Friday’s win against Seattle allowed them to clear their Cascadia rival by three points with six games left to play. An opportunity for Savarese to see what his team is truly capable of come October, Wednesday provides a true test of character.
We’ll continue to keep an eye on the standings as weeks go by, but as it currently stands not much separates the team’s at the bottom of the playoff table. Decision Day looms and if there’s anything MLS fans—especially those in Portland—know, all you have to do to make a cup run is stamp a place in the playoffs and get hot at the right time.