For the first time in this matchup’s brief history, the Colorado Rapids will head to Texas to face Austin FC. The two sides met earlier this year when ATX handed the Rapids their only home loss of 2021. The Burgundy Boys have tallied five wins and are undefeated in the seven home games since. Revenge is an easy narrative that gets tossed around often in previews like these and professional athletes don’t often need extra motivators beyond winning, but expect the Rapids to have that little bit of extra of juice to make up for that loss.
ATX officially opened Q2 Stadium June 19 with a 0-0 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes. They then drew the champs, Columbus Crew, 0-0, before pounding the Portland Timbers 4-1 for their first and only win in their new abode. What’s followed is back-to-back home shutout losses to LAFC and Seattle Sounders FC.
The Rapids will be hunting for all three points and here’s how they can do it:
Austin FC averages .8 goals scored per home game, but all those goals came in one game, the 4-1 victory over Portland. They’ve been shut out in the other four matches. Road games in MLS always have a chance to be weird for the visiting side when accounting for distance traveled and changes in weather. But the Rapids can do themselves a huge favor when it comes to picking up a result just by being defensively stout and difficult to penetrate. Austin struggles with its attack. Don’t give them any morsels or bites to feed on and odds are good the Rapids are leaving with at least one point.
Keep Barrios Busy
Perhaps F Michael Barrios’s season is flying under the radar in 2021. After an offseason acquisition from FC Dallas brought him to Colorado, the winger has four goals and three assists and is top 30 in the league in goal-creating actions per 90 minutes per fbref.com. He’s scoring, assisting and setting up others to do the same. While Austin have scored the fewest goals in MLS (tied with Miami with 10), they have conceded the second-fewest in the West. They’re proving difficult to break down, which is when Barrios getting his touches and creating chaos will come into play. My not-so-bold prediction is if Barrios gets his usual touches in the attacking third, the Rapids will score and walk away winners.
Fill the Danny Wilson-sized Gap in the Back
We don’t know the health status of D Danny Wilson but we do know he’ll miss the match regardless due to yellow card accumulation. The Scotsman had found a groove this year playing as an impromptu quarterback of the back four. A lot of attacking plays have begun with the ball at his feet, using his vision and his decisive, pinpoint passing. Without him, one of D Auston Trusty or D Lalas Abubakar will have to step up and be that guy. We may also see M Jack Price drop between them to retrieve the ball and take the reins. Each one is capable but it’s going to be fascinating to see how Austin adjust to who his distributing the ball and what gaps that could open up.