Austin FC-Los Angeles FC Preview
Josh Wolff acknowledges Austin FC may learn a lesson or two from their MLS opener against perennial contenders Los Angeles FC.
Austin are entering the league in 2021 and could hardly have asked for a tougher start. LAFC, starting just their fourth season, won the Supporters' Shield in 2019 and last year reached the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, painfully losing to Tigres UANL.
"It's always good to play good teams, and LAFC are one of the best teams in this league the last three years," said Wolff, a former assistant for the United States national team. "We all understand what type of players they have, what type of team they are, what type of coach Bob Bradley is. From that standpoint, it's a great challenge.
"We're going to learn a little bit about ourselves. We know we're just starting out and we're six weeks into this, but it's a good opportunity to go to a very difficult place to play and compete and try to do the things we've been working on."
As Austin take their first steps, LAFC and coach Bob Bradley are focused on "the next step".
"Sure, we want to win trophies," Bradley said. "A lot of people say the next step is MLS Cup, and I understand that. For me, the next step is the first three games are important to get into the Open Cup, the next step is winning the Supporters' Shield, and then the final step, of course, at the end of the year is winning MLS Cup, where we use playoffs to determine a champion. Those are the goals for a year."
Los Angeles FC – Eduard Atuesta
Containing attackers Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi will clearly be tricky for debutantes Austin, but winning the midfield battle against Atuesta is unlikely to be any easier. Among players to feature in 1,000 minutes or more, Atuesta led the league with 103.7 touches per 90 minutes last season.
Austin FC – Alex Ring
An expansion draft pick from New York City FC, Ring is the obvious player to put up against Atuesta. The new Austin captain made 2.6 tackles per 90 last season, ranking 11th among midfielders to play 1,000 minutes or more.
- Los Angeles FC and Banc of California stadium will be the site for a team's inaugural MLS match for the second time in two years after LAFC beat Inter Miami in their first match to open last season. LAFC have won both of their matches against expansion sides, also beating FC Cincinnati 2-0 in 2019.
- LAFC are the second team in MLS history to win their first three season-opening matches, after Vancouver did so in four straight from 2011 to 2014 (excluding breakaway shootouts). LAFC's three straight opening-day wins represents the longest active streak in MLS.
- Teams have won their inaugural match on just one of the past 10 occasions an expansion team has joined MLS (LAFC 1-0 Seattle in 2018, D2 L7). LAFC are also the only team to keep a clean sheet in their inaugural MLS match since the Sounders beat the Red Bulls 3-0 in 2009.
- Rossi won the 2020 Golden Boot with 14 goals last season, two more than any other player. It was the second straight season an LAFC player won the Golden Boot (Carlos Vela – 34 goals in 2019), the first time a team has had a Golden Boot winner in two straight seasons since MLS began handing out the award in 2005.
- Austin skipper Ring had played 10,018 regular season minutes for NYCFC since joining MLS in 2017. Only two outfield players (Cristian Roldan, Haris Medunjanin) played more minutes than Ring in that time.
Updated April 16, 2021