Preview-Austin_210417
LAFC vs Austin FC
MLS 2021 Season - Match #1
Saturday, April 17, 2021
3:00 p.m. PT
Banc of California Stadium
TV: FOX, FOX Deportes
RADIO: ESPN LA 1110 AM, ESPN App, KFWB 980 AM

After everything that has transpired in the last year, it is hard to believe that we are on the doorstep of the 2021 MLS Season, coming back with a limited number of fans in attendance at Banc of California Stadium on April 17.

The Black & Gold are finally back into a routine, having almost a full month and a half of regular preseason training, and while the squad has had some exhibition matches during training camp, the players are eager to get the year started.

“The locker room vibe is very high right now,” said LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye. “We’re really looking forward to our first game.”

LAFC should be excited. The Club returns most of the core group that in the last two years has produced a Supporters’ Shield, an MLS MVP, two consecutive Golden Boot winners and league records too many to list. A Club that over the last three years, ranks first in the league in goals (200), assists (182), shots (1,506), and shots on goal (571). There is continuity and a history of regular season success. But with that also come expectations.

For the second consecutive season, the Black & Gold start the season against another expansion team playing their first ever match. In 2020 it was Inter Miami, and in 2021 it is Austin FC.

AUSTIN FC IN DEPTH

It is still very early, but it appears as if Austin has done a good job at putting together an expansion team roster that combines MLS veteran leadership with players like newly minted captain, midfielder Alex Ring and splashy signings including forward Cecilio Dominguez and attacking midfielder Tomás Pochettino. Similar to how LAFC built its inaugural roster, Austin has brought in a group of young talents in an effort to build both for success now and in the future.

While Austin Head Coach Josh Wolff has yet to lead an MLS squad himself, as an acolyte of current U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach, Greg Berhalter, one could expect a fluid, attacking style of play designed to create disorganization for the opposition.

Though even Wolff admitted in a Tuesday press conference he isn’t entirely sure what to expect from his team in its first match.

“It’s a little bit of everything. It’s nerve-wracking. It’s exciting. It’s worrying about if we’re prepared or if we’re overanalyzing,” Wolff said. “It’s a balance. It’ll be good to push through the first game and then reflect on that and see (where we are).”

NOW OR NEVER

For LAFC, it’s time. They have established successful and exciting football ideas with strong players upfront, in the middle and throughout the back line. This is another season that the Club has been building toward with the aim of wining as many trophies as possible.

“We feel we’ve established a good identity and a good way of playing and our players all appreciate the way we go about things. So, when you start this season the excitement level is high,” said LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley. “You're always trying to implement some new ideas, but the idea that so many guys have an understanding of what we want to be about on the field makes a big difference.”

LAFC WILL WIN IF

If Austin pressures too high. LAFC is too good at playing through gaps in the midfield and if Austin falls behind early, it will be tough for them to keep up with with the savvy Black & Gold.

AUSTIN FC WILL WIN IF

They can get a flash of quality and put one in the net, and then throw their bodies in front of every opportunity LAFC throws at them.

NOTES:

· Austin FC’s Head Coach, Josh Wolff, was a young forward for the Chicago Fire from 1998-2002 under then-Head Coach Bob Bradley. The two won an MLS Cup in 1998 together and teamed up in the Windy City until 2002.

· LAFC is a perfect 3-0-0 all-time in season openers, with victories over Inter Miami CF (2020), Sporting Kansas City (2019) and Seattle Sounders FC (2018). The match against Austin FC will also mark the third consecutive year that LAFC will play Week 1 at Banc of California Stadium.

· Only four expansion teams have won their first-ever MLS matches, the most recent by LAFC in 2018.

· For fans that will be in attendance, make sure and review updated Banc of California Stadium safety guidelines here.

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