Austin FC's second-half showing secures victory over Minnesota United FC
Austin, Texas – Austin FC got off to a sloppy start in its fourth home match of the season against Minnesota United FC, but the Verde still managed to secure a 1-0 victory.
Going into Sunday’s match, there were a lot of unknowns, partially thanks to the sudden and indefinite suspension of Austin FC's winger Cecilio Domínguez.
Though he missed last week's match to sort out green card-related matters in Paraguay – which the club announced he successfully did on Thursday – news broke Friday that he was being investigated by MLS for unknown reasons.
With Domínguez out, it was up to Ethan Finlay to fill the attacking gap in what fans felt was a must-win match, especially at Q2 Stadium.
One would hope with such a strong starting lineup including playmakers like Sebastián Driussi, Diego Fagúndez, and the "golden arrow" that is Maxi Urruti, there would be some solid shots on goal in the first 45 minutes of play.
Unfortunately, the first half was anything but impressive, with both Austin FC and Minnesota United struggling to find their footing.
Whatever was said in the locker room during halftime seemed to ignite something within Austin FC's players, as they entered the second half on a mission to win by any means necessary.
While it would've been legend to see Driussi send one – or five – flying into the back of the goal, it was a cross by Hector Jiménez to a resurrected Urruti in the 58th minute that gave the Verde and Black a 1-0 lead.
Urruti nearly made things 2-0 with the help of Driussi in the 77th minute, but Minnesota United defender Michael Boxall was the club's saving grace thanks to a header that cleared Urruti's attack.
Though Minnesota United put up quite the fight to find its equalizer, it was Austin FC who came out victorious with a final score of 1-0.
The player spotlight
Austin FC might've named defender Ruben Gabrielsen it's man of the match, but the Verde could've lost out on three points if it weren't for Urruti's goal.
For all the shade he gets simply because he's played all three Texas clubs in MLS, Urruti is shaping up to be quite the difference maker for Austin FC.
In the Verde's match against the San Jose Earthquakes on April 2, it was Urruti who struck gold from far out, not only securing his first goal with the club, but also put Austin FC on the board.
In Sunday's match against Minnesota United FC, Urruti gave the same kind of energy fans praise Fagúndez for maintaining throughout the entirety of a game.
Despite the team's sloppy and impatient showing in the first half, Urruti was relentless when the Verde and Black needed it the most.
Since Domínguez will be out indefinitely, the Verde needs all the attacking help they can get.
With a striker stepping up in the ways Urruti has – particularly in the last two matches – it seems Austin FC might not be in such bad shape after all.
The big picture
Despite the last-minute suspension of Domínguez, Austin FC managed to secure the much-needed win at home.
But there are still many questions surrounding his suspension, and how it'll affect not only the Verde locker room, but also the club's cohesiveness on the pitch.
When asked about the startling news in the post-match press conference, head coach Josh Wolff noted that they "talk a lot about resiliency and hard work and collective," adding, "there was something that happened this week that obviously affects our group to some degree, but that was never going to be an excuse."
Though Wolff successfully tip-toed around the still-unknown specifics of Domínguez's indefinite suspension, he said, "we're gonna let that happen, and the process that needs to take place will take place," before praising the grit of Austin FC's eligible players.
"I loved their focus, and I loved the energy. And again, as this game went on, I think our guys executed in a really, really good way."
Of course, there are numerous things for the Verde and Black to work on following Sunday's match. But the club is learning how to win ugly games, a skill that's needed to be competitive in MLS and make it to the playoffs.
Austin FC's next test will come on Saturday in a road match against a 2-0-3 D.C. United at 6:30 PM CST.
Cover photo: Collage: Imago/ZUMA Wire