Austin FC can move a step closer to clinching a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time in club history with a win at Q2 Stadium on Wednesday versus Real Salt Lake.
The Verde and Black are holding onto second place in the Western Conference, despite their current three-game losing streak, while RSL are clinging to the final playoff spot, three points above the Los Angeles Galaxy, although they have played one more match.
In the Texas capital, the runaway offensive train has come to a screeching halt as Austin have failed to score in back-to-back games for the first time since May, when they lost a pair of one-goal affairs versus the Los Angeles Galaxy (1-0) and RSL (2-1).
Josh Wolff has seen his side suffer consecutive 3-0 defeats to Nashville SC and the Seattle Sounders after losing only one of their first 28 league encounters this season by multiple goals.
As a unit, the Verde and Black have only been shut out of four contests in their sophomore campaign, as they are even with Los Angeles FC for the most goals scored in the Western Conference (60).
Austin striker Sebastian Driussi is goalless in two consecutive fixtures, as he trails Hany Mukhtar by two goals in the MLS Golden Boot race, while Diego Fagundez, who leads them in assists this season (10), set up the winning goal in their previous home fixture versus Salt Lake, and Brad Stuver only had to make two saves to earn that victory last season.
Emiliano Rigoni began on the bench once against last weekend, replacing Ethan Finlay after an hour of play, the coach’s son Owen Wolff has appeared in back-to-back games as he came on for Felipe in the second half against the Sounders, while Ruben Gabrielsen found the back of the net for the first time since May 18, but unfortunately, it was for the wrong team as his own-goal on Saturday put Seattle up 3-0.
Driussi was on the bench for Austin last weekend after previously suffering from a right knee injury, though he came on for Maximiliano Urruti to play the final six minutes plus stoppage time, while Moussa Djitte missed that match through suspension.
Zac MacMath collected his 10th shutout of the regular season for Claret and Cobalt, stopping all three DC United efforts, while Andrew Brody and Maikel Chang each scored when these two teams met at Rio Tinto Stadium earlier this year as the home side triumphed 2-1.
Sergio Cordova leads them with eight tallies domestically in 2022, two more than Jefferson Savarino, while Justin Meram is first for RSL in assists with six.
Bobby Wood remains sidelined with an adductor strain, Damir Kreilach still has a back injury and Danny Musovski became the 12th RSL player to make his debut this season entering in place of Meram with fewer than 15 minutes remaining on Saturday.
Austin FC possible starting lineup:
Stuver; Gallagher, Gabrielsen, Romana, Lima; Pereira, Ring; Fagundez, Valencia, Finlay; Urruti
Real Salt Lake possible starting lineup:
MacMath; Herrera, Glad, Silva, Brody; Chang, Caldwell, Ruiz, Meram; Cordova, Savarino
Austin FC vs Real Salt Lake: prediction
We say: Austin FC 2-1 Real Salt Lake
The Verde and Black are especially deadly on their home field, scoring 18 goals in their last five matches played at Q2 Stadium.
Regardless of how healthy Driussi is, we expect their backline will not be too troubled by an RSL attack who are not nearly as potent or dynamic as Austin.
Austin FC vs Real Salt Lake: where to watch?
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