By Mike Rice.
With the only shot on target in the game, Portland Timbers took the three points with a header from Bill Tuiloma on 62 minutes against Austin FC. It saw the Timbers remain unbeaten after three games with two draws prior to this win over Austin.
The Texas side had previously scored five goals in their previous two games, a 5-0 win over FC Cincinnati followed up with a 5-1 win over Inter Miami.
But this was Austin’s first real test of the season, with the other two sides previously having their own issues to contend with, though it seems Cincinnati will likely organise their issues much quicker than Phil Neville’s Inter Miami at present.
After 10 goals in two games, Austin failed to find the target against Portland though did have their fair share of possession (62%). They did create shooting opportunities, having 16 shots in this game, though their composure (on top of some excellent Portland defending) let them down.
Sebastián Driussi has three goals and is showing the form that Austin FC need from their creative players in that number 10 role. Either side of him, Diego Fagúndez and Cecilio Domínguez are providing an attacking threat in the wide areas, which is giving their attack more firepower than in 2021.
Maximiliano Urruti leads the line and is yet to find the net this season. With a number of seasons in Major League Soccer, including 65 games for Portland, he has never been prolific. With Danny Hoesen and Moussa Djitté behind him, there are hard workers though not so prolific replacements which will put more pressure on those attacking midfielders to deliver.
SuperDraft pick Kipp Keller started the first two games but was replaced by Ruben Gabrielsen for this game, possibly seen as a tougher test which Keller is still working his way up to being ready for.
His height when called upon will be a real threat in the box from set-pieces, which has already proven successful for Julio Cascante. The Costa Rican centre back has one goal to his name so far and is the ever-present in the centre of defence for Austin.
The game got scrappy, especially going into the second half and both sides fought for the ball and tried to exert their dominance. Neither could take full control though and Austin did well to prevent Portland from extending their lead.
Santiago Moreno showed he is growing more and more into the side with some excellent link-up play and fellow Colombian Yimmi Chará was once again influential.
We wanted to see how Austin coped when faced with some real opposition in 2022, this 100% start and 10 goals in two games was great to see, but the level of opposition had to be taken into account.
Improvements have been made going into their second year and the early signs show they should improve on their 31 points from 2021. How much more will depend on how they continue to cope against the stronger sides, and how creative they can be.
Their pace out wide was evident and they ended up attempting 25 crosses in the game as Portland became more compact when with the 1-0 lead. Only five of these crosses found a teammate, but Austin are showing a clear attacking threat which could continue to improve in quality and see them compete for a playoff place come the end of the year.
Unfortunately, finding goals hard to come by could repeat itself if these improvements are not found, they could struggle once again. There will undoubtedly be scouting eyes on a new centre forward should Urruti and co continue to be inconsistent in front of goal, though, without a designated player spot available, this is easier said than done.