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Austin FC needs to rebound after opening loss to avoid early elimination

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin FC’s woes in matches outside of Major League Soccer continued Friday with a 3-1 loss to Mazatlan FC in the opening game of group play of Leagues Cup at Q2 Stadium.

They aren’t out of the tournament with another group stage game against FC Juarez coming Saturday. Verde and Black is 1-2 in U.S. Open Cup play and they failed to advance in the opening round of the Concacaf Champions League against undermanned Violette FC of Haiti 3-2 on aggregate. The loss to Mazatlan FC, a team that joined Liga MX in 2020 and was seeded No. 13 out of 18 teams in Leagues Cup, underscored the team’s struggles in other tournaments.

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“It’s a tough one to leave the stadium, and it’s tough when this is an elimination tournament,” Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver said. “We had moments where we had our rhythm with good spells of attacking play, but we just gave them three goals. We had chances to put the fire out on all three, but they ended up getting all three.”

Austin FC was dinged up going into the match and they left battered. Forwards Gyasi Zardes and Maxi Urruti went down with injuries and midfielders Dani Pereria, Emiliano Rigoni and Sebastian Driussi did not play. Defender Leo Vaisanen is still out with a knee sprain and will be out for “another two months,” head coach Josh Wolff said. Jon Gallagher, Austin’s jack-of-all-trades, played in the MLS All-Star Game on July 19, came into the match in the 70th minute with Austin down 2-1.

Regardless of the injuries and starting lineup, Wolff said his club has plenty of chances to take control of the match but simply didn’t.

“We had more than enough opportunities to make more of the situation,” he said. “We let ourselves down. The players that weren’t available, that’s its own little story, but we had more than enough out there to get a result.”

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Wolff said midfielder Alex Ring has been practicing with the first team and could be available for Saturday’s Leagues Cup match. Driussi could also be ready to play, so at least there’s that light at the end of what’s turned out to be a dark tunnel when Austin plays outside of MLS.

Diego Fagundez tied the match at 1-1 with a penalty kick in the 65th minute, but Mazatlan tacked on two more goals to pull off the road stunner. Mazatlan finished dead last in the 2023 Liga MX Clausura season with a 2-1-14 record for just seven points.

Mazatlan and Juarez play each other at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Q2 Stadium. If Mazatlan wins, they’ll be through to the knockout stage with six points, and that would set up a must-win for Austin FC to advance on Saturday. If Juarez wins, things could get complicated and a tiebreaker scenario would be in play if all three teams win matches. FC Juarez is the 16th-seeded Liga MX team in the bracket, but it comes into the tournament unbeaten three games into the 2023 Apertura season.

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