Austin FC's first Major League Soccer game ended in defeat as Los Angeles FC spoiled the party with a 2-0 victory on Saturday.
Founded in 2018, Austin spent the past three years preparing themselves for inclusion in the 2020/21 season, and they kicked off the campaign with a game against the side with the most wins, points and goals in the last three seasons, LAFC. Nice and easy.
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Austin entered the game as massive underdogs and the game played out exactly as you would expect. The newcomers held their own for the first half, in which LAFC star forward Carlos Vela was hauled off with a knee injury, but the gulf in quality became clear after the break.
Eddie Segura hit the bar shortly after half-time, but LAFC did take the lead in the 61st minute through Corey Baird, whose long-range strike ended up in the back of the net courtesy of a wicked deflection.
LAFC, who were also without top scorer Diego Rossi because of a hamstring injury, continued to pepper Austin's goal, but stopper Brad Stuver did well to rise to the challenge, and the visitors came close to grabbing a late equaliser late on through substitute Jon Gallagher, whose stoppage-time effort was well dealt with by Pablo Sisniega.
With the clock ticking down, LAFC made it 2-0 as Jose Cifuentes capitalised on an error at the back to slot home and seal a deserved victory for Bob Bradley's side.
Unsurprisingly, Austin were outplayed throughout and lacked the quality needed to really test LAFC, but few actually expected them to come out on top here, in what was perhaps the toughest-possible start to life in MLS.
“We feel disappointed. We’re not approaching this like a first-year team that is happy to be here,” said Stuver (via the Austin American-Statesman). “We feel like we went toe-to-toe with LA and were unlucky to lose 2-0. Both of their goals had some luck involved and we had a few shots just off or saved.”
Head coach Josh Wolff added: “We fell extremely flat in the second half. We need to do a better job being mentally ready when we come out of half-time. We’ll get better and learn from it.
“We had some chances, but we lacked some creativity and execution in that final part of the play. We injected a few offensive players later in the second half and that picked up our energy and helped create more chances.”
“We need to be realistic. We should be proud. It was our first game and there was positives.”