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Five things we’re hoping to see when Sounders visit Austin FC

Sounders will have to make do with a rotated lineup.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Austin FC Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few days removed from a momentous achievement in Concacaf Champions League, the Seattle Sounders are back in league action against Austin FC. The Sounders’ somewhat rocky start in MLS play is contrasted by Austin FC’s hot start, in which they’ve gone 2-1-0 while scoring five goals in each of their two home games.

Here’s what we’re hoping to see:

Winner’s mindset

One of the things that separates the Sounders from most MLS teams is the standard to which they hold themselves. That means that even when there’s heavy lineup rotation — like there will inevitably be on Sunday — the Sounders still expect themselves to win. We saw this sort of determination in Thursday’s CCL match, in which the Sounders were disappointed even though the tie secured advancement. The Sounders need only look at last year’s trip to Austin for evidence. - Jeremiah

Adolescence in Austin

Who could forget what happened the last time the Sounders visited Austin? Seattle started five teenagers in that match — an MLS record — and Raúl Ruidíaz scored a goal from near midfield. The Sounders travel to Austin this time in somewhat similar circumstances, on short rest and having traveled straight from León to Austin. It’s not likely the Sounders will play with five teenagers this time, but we very well could see three start the match. It’s almost certain that the base of the midfield will be Danny Leyva and Obed Vargas. We could even see Reed Baker-Whiting get his second MLS start this season. - Mark

Rely on Ragen

Jackson Ragen has only started twice since joining the Sounders earlier this year, but he’s already playing like a grizzled veteran. Ragen barely put a foot wrong in Thursday’s match with León and will likely be asked to play to a similar standard against Austin. Unlike León, though, Ragen is unlikely to be surrounded by MLS veterans. This should be an interesting test for the rookie centerback. - Jeremiah

Let the Bear eat

One player who is almost a lock to start that isn’t quite a teenager anymore is Will Bruin (sorry, Will). He’s had a bit of a delayed start to the season after picking up an injury in the preseason, but he’s fully fit and ready to go now. With Ruidiaz still out and 34-year-old Fredy Montero playing most of Thursday night, it seems likely that Brian Schmetzer will turn to the reliable Bruin against Austin. He often shines in these moments where the team needs someone to turn to, so let’s see him get the necessary service so he can feast. - Mark

Look for the counter

Over the last three games, the Sounders have enjoyed a good deal of success despite failing to have as much as 40% of possession. Chances are, that streak will continue as Austin FC tends to dominate the ball. That’s fine. As long the Sounders can stay compact and keep from getting stretched, they should be in good shape. That’s where someone with Ragen’s passing ability can really come in handy. The other key will be making sure that Sebastián Driussi isn’t allowed to get too many touches in dangerous areas. After scoring five goals in 17 games last year, he already has three in 2022. - Jeremiah