Columbus Crew at Austin FC Preview
The defending champion Columbus Crew stumbled to a 1-0 mid-week loss against fellow contender Philadelphia Union. They stay on the road this weekend for a trip to expansion side Austin FC on national TV. The 8 p.m. ET kickoff on Sunday from Q2 Stadium in Austin gives the Crew a perfect opportunity for a bounce-back game.
This will be a game Crew fans will want to win and win big. Austin owner Anthony Precourt is the former Crew owner who attempted to move the team to Texas before the famous #SaveTheCrew movement in 2019 resulted in the Haslam family keeping the team in Columbus.
The Crew and Austin FC have never met, and this will be their only regular-season meeting in 2021. Austin opened up their brand new stadium last week against San Jose, and this will be the Crew’s final road game before opening their new stadium.
Crew Offense Vanished on Wednesday
With three games in an eight-day span, Caleb Porter juggled his lineup on Wednesday, opting to rest playmaker Lucas Zelarayan for a half. Newcomer Kevin Molino got his first career start before giving way to Zelarayan at the break. The shift in personnel had an impact as no Crew offensive starter took a shot on goal in the game, and Columbus had just two total in 90 minutes.
Eloy Room returned to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game in quarantine. He didn’t make a save as the Union scored on their only shot on goal with a 24th-minute strike. Evan Bush filled in for Room in the shutout against Chicago on Saturday.
With 14 points, the Crew are tied for fourth place in the East, and they have played one less game than two of the three teams ahead of them. Through nine games, the Crew have allowed just seven goals. Only Orlando City (6) and Seattle (5) have allowed less so far this season.
The Crew found some offense last weekend from a familiar source as striker Gyasi Zardes netted a brace. After not scoring in the first five league matches of the season, Zardes has three goals in the last three starts. He took five shots against the Fire and gave the Crew control of the match with goals in the 17th and 34th minutes.
Austin Cannot Find Goals
Austin won back-to-back games on April 24 and May 1 before losing three straight. The Verde drew three in a row before losing 2-0 on Wednesday in Minnesota. They have one goal from the last six games and have scored in just four of 10 contests, leaving only Chicago with fewer goals on the season.
Austin opened Q2 Stadium with a drab 0-0 draw against San Jose on June 19. The game drew 20,738 fans for the first-ever major league sporting event in the history of Austin.
Paraguayan forward Cecilio Dominguez has scored three of the Austin FC goals, while Uruguayan midfielder Diego Fagundez has two. Young midfielder Sebastian Berhalter, who has played in eight games for Austin FC this season, is on loan from Columbus.
The Crew are rare underdogs as they head to Austin at +195 with the Verde +143. A draw is +220. Under 2.5 goals is -120, and over 2.5 goals is -106.
Normally you’d say the Crew can’t be caught looking ahead to first-place New England and the new stadium. But with Precourt owning Austin and all the hard feelings in the Crew fan base, there’s no way they are anything but focused on Sunday’s tilt. Look for the Crew to score early and send a message in Austin.
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