Josh Wolff knows Austin FC have a lot of work to do regardless of a tough run of fixtures that continues with a return to Sporting Kansas City.
As it waits on the opening of the new Q2 Stadium, Austin has started its debut MLS season on the road.
Two wins from seven away games is a handy enough return but means they have only seven points, one more than last-place FC Dallas in the West.
The San Jose Earthquakes visit Austin on June 20, but the expansion side must first face high-flying Sporting KC for the second time this season. The first was a 2-1 defeat on May 9, and Austin is winless and goalless since.
“There’s been some positive growth and we’ve got to keep growing,” Austin coach Wolff said. “We’re nowhere close to a final product. We’re looking forward to getting home, obviously, but getting home doesn’t mean you flip a switch and score a bunch of goals.
“We’ve got to keep working, keep grinding and be more efficient in some areas in and around goal.”
But Sporting KC boss Peter Vermes has been impressed by his opponent, which held the league-leading Seattle Sounders to a scoreless draw last time out.
“They’re a very good team, they have really good quality players,” Vermes said. “They’re organized. I think they have a really good understanding of how they want to play.
“I think their players are extremely energetic and I think that they have a good combination of some veterans, some young guys, guys that are really good on the ball, some guys that get in behind you. It’s a good team.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sporting Kansas City – Johnny Russell
The international break makes this the only MLS game of the week and also robs Sporting KC of the talents of leading marksman Alan Pulido. But that should mean an opportunity for Russell, whose MLS career cost him his place in the Scotland set-up before he lost his starting role at the club level too.
Austin FC – Cecilio Dominguez
“We’ve got to score some goals, I won’t lie,” said Wolff, “We’re working on it.”
A central striking role for Dominguez has been one tweak, although the Designated Player’s two MLS goals to date came from a wide role against the Colorado Rapids.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Sporting Kansas City came from behind to beat Austin FC 2-1 at Children’s Mercy Park on May 9. Sporting has won four of its past five home matches against expansion sides dating back to 2017 (D1).
– Sporting KC recorded its fourth comeback win of the season on May 30, beating the Houston Dynamo 3-2 after conceding the first goal. They have already matched the Earthquakes’ league-leading total of four comeback wins from the entire 2020 season.
– Jon Gallagher’s seventh-minute opening goal at Children’s Mercy Park on May 9 was Austin’s fifth MLS goal in just over three matches. Austin has not scored since, however, going 352 minutes without a goal.
– Gadi Kinda, who scored Sporting KC’s winning goal against Austin, also scored the team’s third goal against Houston on May 30. Kinda is one of four SKC players with multiple goals this season (Alan Pulido five, Kinda three, Daniel Salloi three, Gianluca Busio two), tied with San Jose for the most multi-goal scorers in MLS in 2021.
– Austin has faced 17.9 shots per match this season; only FC Cincinnati (20.5) has allowed more. Only the LA Galaxy’s Jonathan Bond (5.7) has averaged more saves per 90 minutes than Brad Stuver (4.1) this season (min. 450 mins).