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This clash between the top two sides in the Western Conference so far this season will have a new dimension to it after both sides suffered defeats in the last round of games. Despite there being a gap between themselves and the chasing pack, Los Angeles FC are quite clearly the superior team heading into this tie and in the Western Conference. They’ve got a nine-point lead over Austin FC and a win in this match will only confirm their superiority.
The two sides have only had four previous meetings, with LAFC winning three and Austin FC winning one. Almost everything bar their last meeting points towards a win for LAFC.
The last match between these sides took place back in May with Austin FC getting their first win over LAFC in their history in a highly charged game that saw eight yellow cards issued between the two sides.
Ruben Gabrielson’s 13th minute goal eased the nerves of the visitors, who had to hang on for most of the game with just 42 percent of possession and allowing 18 shots on goal with nine on target. Diego Fagundez’s second in the 80th minute seemed to have settled the tie for Austin FC but Carlos Vela got one back for LAFC six minutes later, leaving us with a tense end to the game. Austin FC held on to get an improbable victory, scoring from their only two shots on target.
Austin FC lost 2-1 to Minnesota United FC in what was the third time they’d dropped points in their last five games. They’ve lost some of the momenta that’s got them to second place in the conference with teams looking more and more likely to get something against them.
This was always bound to happen due to their overperformance through the season, which is now starting to catch up on them. Emanuel Reynoso and Franco Frangipane scored the two goals for Minnesota United FC. Sebastian Driussi scored from the penalty spot for Austin FC.
Argentine forward, Sebastian Driussi now looks like the clear favorite to win the MLS golden boot. Regardless of win, lose or draw, he always seems to get on the scoresheet. He slotted in the penalty against Minnesota United FC to take his tally for the season to 18. He needs one more to tie the record for last season.
The Argentine has put in an all round display and has been fundamental to Austin FC’s excellent season. He’s applied 20.51 pressures per game on average over the last year, and provided five assists this season as well. You couldn’t ask for a lot more from a forward.
He has overperformed on his expected goals with FBref prescribing an expected goal value of 11.8 for his 18 goals but even a regression shouldn’t stop him from winning the golden boot as he’s far ahead of the chasing pack for the time being.
There’s been a lot of good fortune involved in Austin FC’s second place standing in the Western Conference and seems to be finally catching up to them. Sebastian Driussi’s heroics have played a big part as mentioned in the previous section but their defense has been equally lucky. They’ve got an expected goal against a value of 41.5 but have only conceded 36 goals so far. These are bottom-half defensive numbers but aren’t likely to stop them from making it to the playoffs.
The team does, however, look quite fragile at the moment and Los Angeles FC has the strength to expose this weakness. The concern for Austin FC will be that the same could happen during the playoffs.
Hector Jimenez has been out with a groin injury and is expected to make a return in September. Freddy Kleeman has been out with an ACL injury and should only be available towards the end of the year.
San Jose Earthquakes sent shockwaves throughout the MLS after ending Los Angeles FC’s seven-game winning run with a 2-1 victory against the Western Conference leaders. Benjamin Kikonovic and Cade Cowell were the heroes for San Jose, whereas Kwadwo Opoku got on the scoresheet for the seventh time this season for LAFC.
Cristian Arango, LAFC’s top goalscorer, had a chance right at the end but couldn’t find the net. San Jose had some good fortune with Ilie Sanchez getting sent off in the 79th minute but were well worth the three points in the end.
Giorgio Chiellini and Gareth Bale have had their workloads managed so far this season with no real need to rush them into a side that’s already comfortably ahead of everyone. But they might have to start this match because it’s against Austin FC.
Austin FC are nine points behind but a win will get them to within six points and that might be too close for comfort. This is the sort of game the likes of Chiellini and Bale should thrive in. With little to play for in the regular season, these are the sort of games where LAFC need to find ways to motivate themselves and just the sort of games where Chiellini and Bale have thrived throughout their illustrious careers.
Los Angeles FC have created the perfect MLS team by forming a cohesive unit prior to adding the stardust. After a disappointing campaign last time out, they look set to end this season with the Supporters Shield. The big prize is, of course, the MLS Cup, but a win here should almost confirm the first of many prizes.
While LAFC were once heavily reliant on Carlos Vela, that isn’t the case anymore. This is a side with many threats like Arango and Opuku and has now got some of the humblest European stars from the last decade to add extra bite to the team. This match and the MLS Cup is theirs to lose.
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|Austin FC vs Los Angeles FC
|Friday, 26 August at 8 pm ET onwards
|How to watch
|ESPN+, ESPN Deportes
Varun is a web journalist who has been writing on sports for 13 years. He took a shine for the MLS during the 2021 season and has been following it and writing about it since, alongside his work involving the English Premier League, La Liga, and the Serie A. He is deeply interested in soccer analytics and strategy and has aspirations to move into coaching at some point. Email: [email protected]More info on Varun Shetty
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