There’s no time to gloat as Austin FC faces another top Western Conference foe in Vancouver

AUSTIN (KXAN) — They’re one of Major League Soccer’s hottest teams right now with four wins in their last five matches, but one thing Austin FC has to do now is be humble.

If they start to get ahead of themselves, they can kiss a shot at the top of the conference table goodbye for now. Austin FC is stuck in a Western Conference logjam at 15 points and just three points out of the top spot, but they have to deal with another conference frontrunner on the road Saturday in the Vancouver Whitecaps who have 17 points and are tied for second place.

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“I think there’s a humility that we have to approach these games with,” Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff said. “There’s a humbleness inside our group. When you talk about knowing who you are, it’s knowing that we’re a group. We do things in a collective manner.”

Coming off perhaps their best match of the season, a 2-0 win at Q2 Stadium over the conference-leading LA Galaxy, going to BC Place in British Columbia isn’t easy. It’s a small sample size, but Vancouver has won all three meetings at home against Austin FC by a combined score of 6-2. What is encouraging for this year’s Austin FC is that they went to Seattle and played the Sounders to a scoreless tie, which for a road match two time zones away is an acceptable result.

“Grabbing points is a positive,” he said. “We told these guys yesterday, that we haven’t done anything but give ourselves a good opportunity to establish who we are and what we want to be thought of.”

PREVIOUS MATCH: Red-hot Austin FC stops league-leading LA Galaxy 2-0

In order to get points north of the border, Verde and Black have to somehow wrangle one of the league’s hottest goal scorers in Brian White. He’s scored or assisted in six consecutive matches for the Whitecaps and is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer while they’ve been part of MLS. Wolff said there are similarities in attacking style between the Galaxy and Whitecaps, but the Whitecaps present other challenges.

“(White) is the end product of a lot of good movements they do,” Wolff said. “He’s a very industrious American striker. When we think of good American strikers who have stayed here, he’s a good representation of that.”

Wolff simplified the game plan by saying Austin has to limit those types of movements that get White free to create. That means paying close attention to midfielders like Ryan Gauld and Andrew Cubas and trying to get them out of their comfort zones so they can’t feed their front-line scorers.

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However, if White or something else happens to slip through the Austin back line, the Whitecaps still have to try to put it past the MLS leader in saves, Brad Stuver.

Stuver enters the match with 51 saves in 10 games, 12 more than the Galaxy’s John McCarthy and Montreal’s Jonathan Sirois. Stuver has played all 900 minutes between the pipes for Austin this season and has allowed 13 goals, an incredibly respectable save rate considering McCarthy has allowed 17 goals with 12 fewer stops.

Eight players have scored for Austin this season and newcomer Diego Rubio leads the way with three goals. He scored against the Galaxy and had two shots on target with three drawn fouls and no offside violations, which is a very nice day for a forward. Rubio credited his teammates for his nice run of play the past few matches.

“It’s our collective success,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of things well. Winning is the most important thing, and then you do that, and of course, if you score goals or give assists, you’re going to have more people talk about your performances.”

Austin is in good shape from an injury standpoint but will be without midfielder Dani Pereira as he “clears up a passport situation” and can’t get into Canada. Wolff said he should be available to go on those trips later in the year with Austin and the Venezuelan National Team. Defender Leo Väisänen should travel with the club as he’s recovered from an injury, Wolff said.

The match kicks off at 9:30 p.m. CDT.

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