Western Conference Showdown: Where Austin FC v LAFC will be Won and Lost

It’s safe to say 2022 was a TV-worthy season for Patrick Mahomes and the #Chiefs. 📺

Mr. Box Office. 🔥

#NFL x #Quarterback twitter.com/NFL/status/167…

me on the couch now that Quarterback dropped:

❌ @la_academiapc suffer shock defeat
📈 @DvoTachira gaining ground on the top
👏 Eduardo Lima’s heroics for @DvoLaGuaira

Here are all the major headlines and talking points from jornada 18 in the #LigaFUTVE.

#VenezuelaEsFUTVE
https://t.co/yCiP4QGlfJ

🔟 days until the @Superligaen begins.

Still plenty of time to read our analysis of the most exciting young players in Denmark right now. Which of these superstars will move on this summer? ✨

#sldk | #transferdk
https://t.co/viCwrXPU3n

Share this:

This weekend, two MLS Cup contenders face off in a game that will show us just how serious they are about winning the Western Conference. Second-placed Austin host Conference leaders LAFC: two of the most exciting teams in the MLS.

Big-spenders LA have blown teams away this season, racking up 18 wins – four more than any other team. Austin, in just their second season in franchise history, have been the league’s entertainers: winning 14 games, many of them being high-scoring, end-to-end shootouts.

Who will prevail in this big test? We’ve dived into the Second Spectrum data to break down where Saturday evening’s game will be won and lost.

Deadly in attack, both Austin and LA are the top scorers in the MLS

With 55 goals each, averaging 2.07 goals per game, both teams are incredibly powerful going forward.

They appear to have unlocked an attacking instinct that is remarkably similar, when you look at the data. Both have scored 46 of their 55 goals inside the penalty area, over 83% of their total. Both have a similar average shot distance in meters: 14.89 for Austin, 15.86 for LA. Austin have created 69 chances from crosses, while LA have created 71 chances in the same scenario.

The one area in which they differ, which will have an effect on Saturday’s game, is their attitude towards attacking.

Austin take less shots, and have registered just 106 shots on target – around 4.07 per game; three quarters of the MLS have registered more shots on goal. On the other hand, LA sit in the top 4% of teams for shots on target, averaging around 5.57 each game.

The conversion rate for the Austin FC attackers is higher, but the shot quantity per game is slightly lower.

Austin have also outscored their xG (expected goals) by 15.339 – the most of any other team by some distance. That essentially means they’ve scored 15 goals they shouldn’t have this season, which speaks mainly to their efficiency. Austin are delicate in attack, with a quality-over-quantity approach. Luckily, with a conversion rate of 16.77%, they have the ability to rely on that tactic.

LA, on the other hand, are more scatter-gun. Their intensity in attack results in more shots, more chances created and more opportunities to score.

LAFC’s spread of shot-takers is slightly wider than Austin’s.

If both teams approach Saturday’s game in the same way they have all season, then the most intriguing element of the game is going to be how attacks are contained, rather than how they are deployed. That’s where playing style is going to be critical.

Austin must dominate the ball, or LA will punish

Many of the metrics for which you would expect Austin, a team sat near the top of the conference, to be highly ranked – they’re either average or below.

They rank 21st in the MLS for attacking entries per game (62.04), and sit in the bottom 40% of teams for carries (12.43) and attacking runs per game (33.70). What’s more, Austin rank alarmingly low in some defensive indicators. They are the worst team in the MLS for tackles per game (8.77) and for winning turnovers (46.5). It’s a key explainer for why Austin have been in so many shootout games this year, but also highlights what should be their key objective against LA: keep possession of the ball.

Their passing metrics rank much higher, and their philosophy of ball retention has become a defensive tactic as much as an attacking one. They’re patient in buildup, and many of their players rank among the league leaders for passes completed per game. Coach Josh Wolff has built a solidity in possession.

Passing combinations from the last time these two met in May. You can clearly see the structure Wolff has implemented.

In possession, the center-backs and the midfield double-pivot create square. This provides security and a base from which the full-backs have greater license to attack. It’s a clear strategy that works going forward: although they rank 21st in total final third entries per game (45.46), they make 20.46 passes into the final third per game, which is a top 7% ranking.

LAFC are, on the other hand, defensively resolute, and more well-rounded. They rank 4th in tackles per game and 6th in turnovers won. They sit in the top 8% for attacking entries, at the top 20% for attacking runs per game. A reliable defensive foundation is the basis for added energy and intensity going forward.

Bale has mostly been introduced from the bench since his arrival in LA. Might we see him make an impact in Austin? (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

But with LA coming into a raucous Q2 stadium atmosphere, it’ll be hard for them to disrupt Austin’s passing. And without Ilie Sánchez (suspension) to play as the midfield metronome, and Chiellini sidelined with injury, LA may have to out-score Austin to get anything from this game.

Key player: Sebastián Driussi

Druissi’s case for MVP gets stronger each week.

With 18 goals and seven assists, he’s the top scorer in the MLS. He’s scored a staggering 11.79 goals over his xG, by far the highest tally in the league. Impressive, considering he plays in the number 10 role behind compatriot Max Urruti.

By most measurements, Driussi has the MVP award locked down. (Photo by David Buono/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

He sits in the top 6% of players for passes under pressure (24.7) and passes than break the back line per game (7.5). His instinctive movements, technical cuteness and tenacity in chance creation is absolutely central to the Austin attack.

The holes left by Chiellini and Ilie, in the spaces Drussi likes to occupy, will need addressing by LA manager Steve Cherundolo. Without that, it’s hard to see how they’ll be able to contain the league’s in-form player.

Share this:

Related Posts

Superliga in numbers: A late winner, a rocket, and a right-back masterclass in week two
Two weeks into the Danish football calendar and the goals are already piling up. 22 were scored in six...
Superliga in numbers: The standout performances from matchday one in Denmark
Football in Denmark is back! The Danish Superliga returned to action at the weekend and did not fail...
The wonderkids of the Danish Superliga: Nine talents to watch this transfer window
As the summer transfer window picks up steam, scouting departments survey Europe’s leagues to unearth...

It’s safe to say 2022 was a TV-worthy season for Patrick Mahomes and the #Chiefs. 📺

Mr. Box Office. 🔥

#NFL x #Quarterback twitter.com/NFL/status/167…

me on the couch now that Quarterback dropped:

❌ @la_academiapc suffer shock defeat
📈 @DvoTachira gaining ground on the top
👏 Eduardo Lima’s heroics for @DvoLaGuaira

Here are all the major headlines and talking points from jornada 18 in the #LigaFUTVE.

#VenezuelaEsFUTVE
https://t.co/yCiP4QGlfJ

🔟 days until the @Superligaen begins.

Still plenty of time to read our analysis of the most exciting young players in Denmark right now. Which of these superstars will move on this summer? ✨

#sldk | #transferdk
https://t.co/viCwrXPU3n