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The 2023 Leagues Cup may have been quite disappointing for St. Louis City SC, but their performance in the MLS right before the break was almost perfect. The club won four of the last five games before the break, and their only loss came against the defending MLS champions Los Angeles FC. St. Louis City kept three clean sheets in those five games, scoring eight goals and conceding only four.
Austin FC almost mirrored St. Louis City SC’s form before the break. The side also lost just one of their last five MLS games. However, they won three, drew one, and lost one. Their only loss in those five games came in Vancouver. In addition, the attacking prowess of Austin FC has been quite high, as they scored 11 goals in those five games via eight different goalscorers. However, defensive frailties have only allowed the club to keep one clean sheet in five attempts.
Squads of both clubs are well-rested as their Leagues Cup journey did not last long. So, both coaches will have fresh legs at their disposal to start the second half of the MLS campaign. St. Louis City SC are still without their prolific striker Joao Klauss, who has been out since May, but is expected to return later this month. However, even in his absence, the club has earned multiple wins and they are favorites to add another to their tally against Austin FC.
This is St. Louis City SC’s maiden season in the MLS. Hence, these two clubs have not faced each other in any of the earlier seasons. However, St. Louis City SC’s first-ever MLS game was against Austin FC at the start of this season.
It took St. Louis City SC 24 minutes to get their first MLS goal, and it came via Tim Parker. Sebastian Driussi restored parity in first-half stoppage time before Jon Gallagher turned the game on its head in the 72nd minute.
Just when it seemed like the new MLS side would lose in their maiden league encounter, goals from Jared Stroud and Klauss in the 78th and 88th minute put St. Louis City SC in the lead again. The scoreline remained unchanged till the full-time whistle.
As things stand, St. Louis City SC have a four-point lead over Los Angeles FC in the Western Conference. This vital lead can extend to seven points if St. Louis City FC win against Austin FC and Los Angeles FC fumble in their match against Colorado Rapids.
However, if Los Angeles FC do not fumble and St. Louis City SC go down against Austin FC, the lead will be down to just a single point. The defending MLS champions are not the only team that are in the race for the top-spot.
Real Salt Lake are level on points with Los Angeles FC, but have played a game more. Seattle Sounders are a point behind both these teams and aim to regain their lost form and become challengers for Louis City SC’s number one spot again.
After scoring five goals and pocketing two assists in just nine appearances, St. Louis City SC’s prolific striker, Klauss, suffered a muscle injury that ruled him out for a lengthy period back in May.
However, after over three months, the Brazilian has started training and could be fit enough to start or be on the bench against Austin FC. The striker’s return will give the attacking department the biggest boost for the rest of the season.
In an effort to bolster their frontline, St. Louis City SC have secured the signing of Nokkvi Thorisson from Belgian second-division side Beerschot VA. The winger from Iceland has scored eight goals and nabbed three assists in 30 appearances for the Belgian side.
However, he is not the only player who will be out to impress the coach on his debut. Defender Joakim Nilsson has been sidelined for over three months with a knee injury and has yet to represent his club in the MLS. The Swede could be on the bench in the next match.
Last season, in the MLS, Austin FC had a quite balanced record between home and away games. The club registered eight wins at home and hit the same number on the road. The number of draws were far greater at home, as away from home, they drew just two and lost seven.
As things stand, Austin FC are one loss away from matching their last season’s loss tally in away games. The club has already lost six out of 11 away games, drawing two and winning only three in the process.
Coach Josh Wolff will expect his side to regain their lost form and stay as close to the top four as possible. Currently, Austin FC are four points off Seattle Sounders with a game in hand. They have a chance to reduce that gap and consolidate their place in fifth.
While the hosts may get a boost in attack and defense, Austin FC will have to deal with a major concern in their backline. Center-back Alexander Ring suffered a groin injury during the Leagues Cup, and he could miss the game against St. Louis City SC.
Austin FC could deploy the defensive duo of Kipp Keller and Julio Cascante in the next match. The latter has been solid in defense and has also managed to get two goals and two assists in just 14 appearances. On the other hand, Keller has looked nervous and shaky.
Sebastian Driussi was in the race for the MLS Golden Boot last season, scoring 22 goals in 34 appearances. However, he narrowly missed out on the award. The target has been the same this season, but the Argentine has not hit his stride despite scoring six in 18 matches.
The 27-year-old has also assisted three goals but failed to score or assist in the last three games. Driussi is a pivotal player for Austin FC, and his form will play a big role in the outcome of this match.
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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