Not many who follow Major League Soccer closely figured Austin FC would be where it is in the Western Conference standings. Not after a 9-21-4 inaugural season in 2021.
But the club is currently in third place in the West at 6-3-2 and 20 points and is tied with Los Angeles FC, its opponent Wednesday night in California, for the league lead in goals scored with 23.
Forward Sebastian Driussi of Argentina is Austin's leading goal scorer with seven. The team has scored three or more goals in a match four times this season, and last week signed head coach Josh Wolff to a three-year extension.
Austin FC would be even higher in the standings if not for consecutive losses entering the game against LAFC.
"We need to have the right mentality going on the road, trying to get points and understanding what these games are going to look like," Wolff told the Austin American-Statesman.
The team is coming off a loss to Real Salt Lake in Utah and opted to stay out west rather than return to Texas.
LAFC (7-2-2, 23 points) leads the Western Conference and is undefeated in six home matches this season with four wins and two draws.
LAFC lost 2-0 to the Colorado Rapids last Saturday, ending a run of 18 straight games with a goal dating back to last season. LAFC has scored in its last 31 home MLS matches dating back to August 2020, the longest active streak in MLS, according to the league website.
LAFC has won all three previous meetings with Austin FC. Forward Carlos Vela's four goals lead the team this season. But Vela has been less a goal scorer and more a player who sets up teammates for goals this season, and LAFC has found success with its new game plan.
"For all of us it's been a positive first quarter of the season," LAFC's Kellyn Acosta told the Los Angeles Daily News. "Moving forward we've got to keep growing. Keep building.
"And we can't be content with what we're doing right now because we know we have a higher ceiling and a lot of room to improve."
--Field Level Media