Austin FC bounced back from a couple of consecutive defeats in style by beating LAFC 2-1 to go top of the overall standings on Wednesday evening.
The Verde and Black have made an incredible start to their sophomore MLS season but hit a stumbling block recently, losing back-to-back games against the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.
But Austin recovered in the best possible way, heading down to Banc of California Stadium and grinding out a 2-1 win over Supporters’ Shield rivals LAFC, who now drop to second as a result. Josh Wolff’s men had to work hard for the result, but were helped by a stunning goalkeeping performance from Brad Stuver, who was only beaten by an 86th-minute Carlos Vela penalty – not enough to overturn earlier goals from Ruben Gabrielsen and Diego Fagundez.
“This is a big result,” Stuver told reporters after the match. “On the road is always difficult, it snapped a two-game losing streak for us. It’s the first time that we’ve beat LAFC. They were top of the West, they were top of the Supporters’ Shield race, and with this result, we jump that and we go top of the West, top of the Supporters’ Shield. It’s a statement game for us.
“I think all of these games have been important – you see the grit, you see the grind, you see the chemistry that the guys have, but this one just feels a little bit different. Being able to take points here is something special.”
So many times this season, the likes of Sebastian Driussi and Maxi Urruti have caught the eye for Austin FC. But it was their performance at the other end that caught Wolff’s eye, bending but refusing to break under immense pressure.
Stuver made six saves, but he was also helped by the likes of Julio Cascante making seven clearances, Nick Lima winning all four of his tackles, and Alex Ring making eight recoveries.
“We’re going to play a lot of games; you got to hang in, you got to grind,” said Wolff. “Winning games 1-0, winning one-goal games, is about character and belief and being difficult to break down. Of course, you’re going to give a little bit, the important part is that you don’t break.
“We’ve had a number of one-goal wins this year. We’ve had a couple where we blow them out. This builds a little more character, and the group has better character.”
Austin will look to build on this result when they host Orlando City on Sunday.