There are some interesting prop bets available for Sunday’s match, if you find the right places. What happens on the field doesn’t matter; instead the bet revolves around the celebrity ownership of Austin FC and Seattle Sounders. How many “Alright, alright, alrights” will we get on the broadcast? How many “Cleveland rocks?” How many “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner?” If you do place these bets, bet the over or the Matthew McConaughey side. National media tends to forget about Drew Carey these days.
What, there’s a game? Sorry, got distracted by the marketing side, which will also include old-expansion v. new-expansion, and a stadium big enough to host World Cup events v. a brand new sparkly thing that can’t hold half a Sounders crowd.
On the pitch, the May 30 match (6:30 PM PT, FS1/FOX Deportes) should not be much of a challenge. Seattle Sounders are the best team in the league, with a goal differential greater than the next two teams combined. Austin FC, a team that starts 2021 with an eight-game road trip and is averaging 1 point per game, are trying to learn who they are.
SaH: What is Josh Wolff’s coaching and tactical style?
JP: Before anybody saw the team play, Wolff sounded like every other coach in the league, “We want to play attractive, possession, attack oriented soccer” or some variation of that. It’s one thing to say it as a soundbyte, it’s another to actually deliver it. Surprisingly, apart from that lone Sporting Kansas City game where Alex Ring picked up a red card, Austin has managed to dominate the possession percentage in all their games, despite being on the road.
Wolff has Austin very committed to playing out of the back - which has produced a lot of mixed results. Teams are figuring out rather quickly how to apply the right amount of pressure to force a careless touch and a turnover. The question now is will Wolff adjust and be a bit more pragmatic now the team is on a three-game losing streak against the best team in the league right now.
SaH: Pretend that I am a fan of a Western Conference team that hasn’t watched Alexander Ring play much because he was with NYCFC previously (this is actually me). What’s his play style and why is he the key cog to if Austin FC are working correctly?
JP: To put this within context for your readership, Alex Ring is to Austin as Ozzie Alonso was to Seattle. I’m not saying they’re the same player or have similar playing styles, but I think everyone will understand how Alonso ran Seattle’s team and midfield - dictating the tempo, distributing the ball and setting the tone for the Sounders - that is what Ring is to Austin. Austin goes where Ring goes. The defense takes their queue when to press, when to hang back on Ring’s movements. Ring isn’t as physical as Alonso, he’s always involved in both sides of the ball.
SaH: Why are Cecilio Domínguez and Tomás Pochettino not a dominant force?
JP: Yet. It’s six games into the season, under a first year head coach and an expansion team. Not all DP’s start off dominating a new league right off the bat, especially younger players who can take some time to adapt. Dominguez was a touch away from putting Austin ahead against Nashville last week, and Pochettino was an inch away from putting Sporting Kansas City away. It’s a game of inches and the two DPs are learning, improving and adapting to the league. I’d be more concerned if they weren’t producing at higher levels in October.
There’s no reverse. We all cry.