(Photo credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports)
The Los Angeles Galaxy arrive with plenty of momentum when they travel to face enigmatic Austin FC on Sunday in a key late-season Western Conference match between sides desperate to make a move in the standings.
Austin FC (9-13-7, 34 points) begin the weekend 12th place in the West, three spotsand four points below the conference's wild-card playoff line. The Galaxy (8-11-9, 33 points) can leapfrog Austin FC with a victory.
Austin FC have five matches remaining in the regular season, counting Sunday, while the Galaxy has six.
The Galaxy have captured four of the five MLS matches with Austin FC and the past three meetings between the sides.
LA heads to Austin after a stirring 4-3 win at home over Minnesota United on Wednesday. The Galaxy trailed 3-1 at halftime but rallied over the final 27 minutes on two goals by Billy Sharp and the game winner by former Austin stalwart Diego Fagundez in the 82nd minute.
Sharp recorded a hat trick in the win, to earn MLS Player of the Matchday.
"These points are transitioning from one team to the next every single matchday," Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said. "If anybody wins, and if you lose, you can end up separated immediately. Picking up the three points (against Minnesota) obviously was massive. Maybe it was the difference in us even having a chance at this thing."
The Verde, in their third year of existence, have never lost four straight games to a league opponent but head to Sunday's match on a four-match home losing streak over all competitions.
Austin's most recent outing was a 1-1 draw on the road against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday. The Verde bounced back after conceding an early own goal, tying the match on Sebastian Driussi's strike off a set piece just before halftime.
Driussi, Austin's leading scorer with 10 goals, is likely to miss Sunday's game with a lower-body injury, Austin coach Josh Wolff said Friday.
The Verde is winless in their past eight matches (0-6-2) going back to Leagues Cup play. Austin has not won in MLS play since a 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City on July 15.
"We have had battles with LA Galaxy in the past and we expect this match to be very similar," Wolff said. "They're in a similar situation as we are where they'd have to win to keep hopes alive. So you know, we're home - we have to win.
"We know the playoffs are on the line, and it's a big match. We're going to need to bring that same grit and fight, and more, that we did against Red Bulls."
--Field Level Media