MLS

Fagundez sends Austin top in West with win over LAFC

By Sports Desk May 19, 2022

Austin FC moved to the top of the Western Conference in MLS on Wednesday, securing a gritty 2-1 win over Los Angeles FC.

Goals from Ruben Gabrielsen and Diego Fagundez gave Austin the vital three points, with Carlos Vela's response from the penalty spot in the 86th minute providing mere consolation for LAFC.

Gabrielsen put the home side in front in the 13th minute after Fagundez zipped a dangerous corner in, coolly finishing when the ball fell his way.

Josh Wolff's side looked to absorb pressure from LAFC, and Fagundez was able to double their advantage in the 80th minute after he was played through by Sebastian Driussi.

Vela's goal, which made him the third-fastest player to 100 MLS goal involvements (98 games), was not enough for a largely passive LAFC, who could not translate possession into chances of substance. They accumulated a non-penalty expected goals total of 1.12 from the 17 shots aside from Vela's spot-kick.

Austin lead LAFC on goal difference atop the West on 23 points, with FC Dallas remaining on 22 points after the Vancouver Whitecaps came from behind to defeat them 2-1 late on.

The LA Galaxy missed their chance to make up ground, only managing a 1-1 draw with Minnesota United despite Sacha Kljestan putting them ahead in the 83rd minute.

Elsewhere in the West, the Seattle Sounders continued their recovery from a slow start to the season, defeating the Houston Dynamo 1-0, while Sporting Kansas City beat the Colorado Rapids 2-1 in a game that saw four red cards in stoppage time.

A Jamiro Monteiro brace helped the San Jose Earthquakes defeat the Portland Timbers 3-2, as Nashville's strong start at GEODIS Park continued with a 2-1 victory over CF Montreal.

New York City gained ground on the Philadelphia Union with a 2-0 win over DC United, scoring twice in the first half to move within a point of the Eastern Conference leaders, who were held to a goalless draw by Inter Miami.

In Wednesday's early result, Xherdan Shaqiri scored what he thought was a late winner for the Chicago Fire, only for the New York Red Bulls' Patryk Klimala to score in the first minute of stoppage time to secure a 3-3 draw.

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    The San Jose Earthquakes may sit bottom of the Western Conference standings ahead of Saturday's clash with Orlando City, but Luchi Gonzalez is certain they will be just fine.

    The 'Quakes saw their mini revival halted by a 4-2 loss to the Portland Timbers in midweek, having previously won three straight games across all competitions.

    Their 10 points are fewer than all MLS teams except the New England Revolution (seven) have won this season, but Gonzalez has seen positive signs.

    "We're going to be fine. This is a great group, and they continue to fight for each other. It's hard when we drop points," he said.

    "I expect nothing but a fire in their belly and a response against Orlando and then in the next one, and it's really fun and exciting to coach this team. 

    "These guys work for each other and they want to keep getting better, and I'm confident they will keep getting better as the season continues."

    Orlando have also made a stuttering start, earning 13 points from 12 games to sit 11th in the Eastern Conference standings.

    The Lions did shut out a Lionel Messi-less Inter Miami side in a goalless draw on Wednesday, though, and midfielder Wilder Cartagena has seen signs of progress.

    "Especially in the last few games, we've been showing ourselves to be more dangerous and attacking," Cartagena said.

    "It's similar to how we were in the last half of last year but obviously there are a couple of minor adjustments that we have to make. I think we are playing a lot better in that area."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    San Jose Earthquakes – Amahl Pellegrino 

    Pellegrino has scored in three straight games, becoming the first San Jose player to do so in MLS play since Cristian Espinoza between July and August last year (four straight). 

    It's Pellegrino's first time scoring in three straight league matches since he netted in four in a row for Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt in 2023.

    Orlando City – Cesar Araujo

    Orlando allowed 29 shots against the Philadelphia Union last Saturday but just seven against Miami on Wednesday. It was the first time in their MLS history that Orlando faced at least 20 fewer shots from one game to the next.

    Araujo protected the backline admirably in midweek and will look to do likewise again here.

    MATCH PREDICTION – DRAW

    The home side has never lost in six all-time meetings between San Jose and Orlando. 

    The first three meetings were all drawn before the hosts won each of the last three, with San Jose winning at home in 2019 and Orlando recording home wins in 2018 and 2021.

    After their midweek stalemate against Miami, Orlando have been shut out five times in league play this season. That is tied for the most in MLS in 2024, while their six times being held scoreless in all competitions this term also equals the most by any MLS outfit. 

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    San Jose Earthquakes – 38.4%

    Orlando City – 33.4%

    Draw – 28.2%

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    Toronto - Federico Bernardeschi

    Bernardeschi missed the loss to Nashville but will hope to start this weekend in a fixture he has fond memories of. 

    The Italian has scored in each of his two home games against Montreal, making him the third Toronto player to score in two successive home games against them after Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.

    Montreal - Joel Waterman

    Montreal have conceded three or more goals five times across their 12 MLS games this season, which is tied with San Jose Earthquakes for the most in MLS.

    They quite simply need to sharpen up at the back, with Joel Waterman needing to step up and hope others around him also do so.. The centre-back led the way for interceptions (three) and clearances (four) against Columbus, yet it was still not enough.

    MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

    Montreal have won five successive matches against Toronto, following a run of neither side ever winning more than three on the spin in this fixture.

    Toronto have won seven and drawn one of their eight matches in which they have held opponents under two goals since September, while they have lost all 13 in which they have shipped two or more.

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    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

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    Draw - 28.5%
    Montreal - 31.9%

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    Napoli took the lead in the eighth minute through defender Amir Rrahmani, who nodded home a corner by Matteo Politano.

    Cristiano Biraghi levelled for Fiorentina in the 40th minute from a free-kick, before M'Bala Nzola put the hosts in front two minutes later when he fired a shot into the bottom corner of the net.

    Napoli's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia responded with another stunning free-kick early in the second half to rescue a point for his team.

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    Data Debrief

    Fiorentina left-back Biraghi has now scored six goals from direct free-kicks since the start of 2021-22, which is behind only James Ward-Prowse (seven) - now of West Ham and formerly of Southampton - as the most across Europe's top five leagues in that period.

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