LAFC Push Aside Austin FC in Dominating Win

The Road to the Cup runs through Los Angeles, as LAFC dominate Austin to cruise into the MLS Cup final


Photo Credit: Mia Alvarez

Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) celebrates their victory of the Western Conference Final against Austin FC at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. The match took place on Sunday, Oct.30, 2022

The Road to the MLS Cup is currently running through LA, as Los Angeles Football Club host newcomers Austin FC, in the 2022 Audi MLS Cup Western Conference Final. Two fairly new teams to Major League Soccer with LAFC being in their fifth season in the league and Austin, their second. 

The tale of the tape coming into this game is a long one, with Austin having it out with LA the entire season. LAFC topped the Western Conference with 64 points while Austin trailed them with 56 points. They met twice this season and Austin dominated LA in both meetings losing 1-2 at home, and 4-1 in Austin.

However, those two loses didn’t deter LAFC as they dominated the rest of the league ultimately clinching the Supporters Shield on the penultimate day of the season in Portland as forward (FWD), Denis Bouanga scores his first goal for the team. Austin FC continued to be the second best team in the West as well, with (FWD) Sebastian Driussi leading MLS in goals with 25. 

As the Playoffs began, two different roads brought these teams here. LAFC began with a bye game as they automatically qualified for the Western Conference Semi-Finals while Austin had to play in the first round against Real Salt Lake. Austin survive on a penalty shootout and advance to take on FC Dallas while LAFC welcomed hometown rivals LA Galaxy for an “El Traffico” Semi-Final.

LAFC defeated the Galaxy 3-2 with a late game winner from (FW) Christian “Chicho” Arango, while Austin dominate Dallas in a “Texas Derby” semi-final, winning the game 2-1.

Two powerhouse teams come to fight one last time to see who will advance to the Audi MLS Cup Final, the veterans with playoff history, or the 2nd year rookies with bright futures ahead of them. 

First Half.

At the end of the first half, LAFC lead 1-0 as they dominate Austin, leaving them with only one shot at the break. While possession is about equal, LAFC have looked dangerous going forward leaving Austin’s defense scrambling. The physicality in midfield has allowed the black and gold to move freely just waiting for someone to win their battle and split the defense with a good ball.

Austin need to be weary of LAFC’s late game resurgences, as LAFC dominate the second half of games, scoring a league best 45 goals after the halftime interval. However, Austin Midfielder (MID) Diego Fagundez will be key in winning the ball and driving it up the field. Austin also need to pull the best out of (FWD) Sebastian Driussi who has been uncharacteristically quiet this half. The MLS Goal scoring leader has been neutralized by the physicality in defense and midfield.

However, postseason football is an unforgiving matter, and with LAFC only leading by one goal, anything can happen in the next 45 minutes.

Second Half

Big change at the half,  Sebastian Driussi and (FWD) Moussa Djitte are working more as a strike partnership. Driussi and Djitte bouncing off of each other should begin to allow Austin to open up more and release their fullbacks. It also stops Driussi from dropping deep into midfield to worry about defending, and allows him to get a little more creative to open up the play. So far its pressuring the LAFC defense giving them some scares.

Number 9, Chicho Arango came off for (FWD) Mahala Opowku to a standing ovation from the home crowd. His performance this postseason definitely increases his chances for the Landon Donovan MVP award at the end of the season. 

Austin’s attack must have still been in Texas because they didn’t show up to for this game. Poor defending and no attacking threat is really what hurt Austin overall, and LAFC’s attacking press didn’t give Austin a moment to breath. As the match ended, The 3252 and the entire stadium begins to sing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye!” by Steam, to Austin’s Fans and Austin FC.

LAFC are your 2022 MLS Western Conference Champions!

Post Game

LAFC reach the MLS Cup final for the first time in the teams history. LAFC manager Steve Cherundolo becomes the tenth coach in MLS history to reach the MLS Cup final in their first season as a head coach in the league.LAFC dominated Austin FC to keep the first clean sheet in LAFC history. For the first time since 2003, the two number one seed’s in each conference will face off

After the match, Steve Cherundolo had this to say in the post-match press conference “We’re excited to be in the MLS Cup final. That was our objective from day one. I think the guys did an emphatic job of making sure there was only one team playing here next Saturday. Its, I think, the best I’ve seen this year of them implementing our game plan from the first minute to the very end, which gives us coaches and fans, and hopefully everybody watching a better feeling watching the game and not worrying until the final minute.”

“I’m very proud of the guys tonight and what I experienced in the locker room is still a hunger and want for more, and we’ll keep that level of focus as high as possible for a week, and hope to have a similar press conference next Saturday.”

LAFC will face the Philadelphia Union, Saturday Nov. 5th, at the Banc of California Stadium for the 2022 Audi MLS Cup Final.