This rematch of the 2022 Western Conference Playoffs had plenty of excitement leading up to it. Austin FC, having been on a bye week, needed to prove themselves given the 3 match winless streak they’ve started. LAFC has been on a tear so far this season with Denis Bouanga leading the charge. With it resulting in a similar score line to their previous encounter.
The first half was filled with back and forth action. Austin FC applied pressure in the midfield and made building an attack difficult for LAFC. Austin struggled with creating scoring opportunities even though they dominated possession early. Defensively, it seemed that Austin was standing strong. The late part of the half would prove otherwise.
Some turnovers lead to quick transition scoring attempts for LAFC. As they rolled into the 40th minute, Bouanga was left unmarked. He snuck a shot past Brad Stuver that bounced off the right post into the goal. Austin FC struggled to try and answer back before the whistle blew to end the first half. There was still hope with another 45 minutes to play.
LAFC came out of the half firing two shots quickly. They managed to get 3 set pieces back to back. The 3rd set piece led to the 2nd goal of the match for Bouanga in the 57th minute. It was blasted into the right side of the net after the volley fell right to him.
By now, Austin FC started to look deflated. Substitutions in the 62nd and 63rd minute saw Adam Lundqvist, Gyasi Zardes, and Nick Lima come in for Zan Kolmanic, Maximiliano Urruti, and Jon Gallagher. It seemed that Josh Wolff was throwing in the towel considering Gallagher and Kolmanic were two of the very few players out there trying to do something to impact the match.
Nick Lima picked up a yellow card in the 67th minute for stopping Bouanga from taking off down pitch for a scoring opportunity. A minute later, Sergi Palencia would send an amazing cross right to Bouanga who would flick the ball into goal from the left side of the six yard box. Thus, completing the hat trick.
Wolff made a few more substitutions that solidified his intent to wave the white flag. Diego Fagundez and Emiliano Rigoni would come off for Will Bruin and Ethan Finlay in the 71st minute. Denis Bouanga would also take his leave from the match. Both teams took a few more attempts at goal without scoring to close out the match. Austin FC would lose to LAFC 0-3.
What can I say? Denis Bouanga is having an MVP-like start to this season. 11 goals in 9 games is incredible. Austin seemed to leave him alone far too often in this match which lead to the amazing hat trick. As a fan of fútbol, it was awesome to watch as this player really put their scoring ability on display. As a fan of Austin FC, it was frustrating to see how little focus Bouanga was met with defensively.
Defensively, we are really hurting without Julio Cascante. Alex Ring doesn’t have the experience at CB and neither does Gallagher. And it’s obvious in matches like this when the other club has such strong scorers.
Offensively, Austin FC needs more people attacking the box to help create scoring opportunities. There seemed to be a major lack of aggression that lead to very few real changes on goal. Rigoni isn’t living up to expectations, none of our strikers seem to be able to impact matches, and even Fagundez seems off. Additionaly, it seems that Sebastian Driussi is often alone in that half of the pitch due to the lack of help in and around the box.
Austin FC will take on the Vancouver Whitecaps at Q2 Stadium on the 15th of April. In previous matches, Austin has only beaten Vancouver 1 of 4 times. This will be an important one for Austin to try and build some momentum. We shall see if Austin can pick themselves back up after this tough loss to LAFC.