Austin FC has taken a big leap forward in its sophomore MLS season.
The Verde and Black are enjoying a stellar start heading into a road match with Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah on Saturday. Austin (6-2-2, 20 points) amassed 20 points in its first nine matches - including comeback victories in each of the club's last two matches away from home - before falling 1-0 to the LA Galaxy last weekend.
Early road success bodes well for Austin. Saturday's road tilt with RSL will mark the start of a nine-game stretch that will see the Verde and Black play seven road matches.
Maintaining a potent offensive will be a key to securing valuable road points. Austin is averaging 2.2 goals per game, led by seven goals and three assists from Sebastian Driussi.
Still, the Texas club could not finish chances against the Galaxy after giving up a goal in the sixth minute and suffered its first loss in nearly two months. Austin had an advantage on shots, possession, and accurate passes but it didn't translate in the win-loss column.
"We started quite poorly," Austin coach Josh Wolff said. "We were sluggish and sloppy in the first half. I don't think it was necessarily anything LA was doing. We lacked energy and intensity."
Salt Lake (4-3-4, 15 points) is on the other side of offensive coin. RSL has generated a paltry 10 goals in its first 11 matches. Only Bobby Wood and Tate Schmitt have scored multiple goals at this point. It's one major reason why the Utah club has generated a single victory since winning three of four matches to open the season. The latest setback was a 2-0 loss to Nashville SC last weekend.
Back and calf injuries have limited team captain Damir Kreilach, who has appeared in just six matches so far. His absence has disrupted the usual creative flow in Salt Lake's offense.
"It's something that we've been focusing on and we'll continue to focus on," Salt Lake coach Pablo Mastroeni said. "But Damir is a huge part of our group on both sides of the ball, not to mention leadership. Without Damir, the guys have been doing extremely well, just not enough to create quality chances on goal."
The Utah club has done well on its home soil to date. RSL has won three matches and drawn another at Rio Tinto Stadium this season while enjoying four consecutive sellouts.
--Field Level Media