AUSTIN, Texas – Austin Bold FC moved into the playoff places in the Western Conference on Friday night with a 3-2 victory against Real Monarchs SLC at Bold Stadium as Andre Lima scored twice for the hosts. Here are three takeaways from the contest.
HITTING THE MARK: Previously this season – including the opening two games of its homestand – Austin Bold FC had leant on its defense to find ways to pick up points. On Friday night it was a much different story as the hosts produced their best attacking display of the season to stake themselves to a lead the defense maintained over the course of a second half that saw Austin reduced to 10 men. Andre Lima’s first two goals for the club took advantage of some slack defending by the Monarchs in the opening half, and Bold FC racked up a season-best six shots on target overall. While Valerii Saramutin’s red card late in the first half meant Austin had to absorb plenty of pressure after the break, the side’s attack had already done enough to earn all three points on the night.
REAL ROAD WOES: Up a man for the entire second half it won’t come as a surprise that the Monarchs ended up out-possessing and outshooting its hosts, but for the fourth successive time this season Real was unable to find a way to take victory on the road and in turn was unable to build on its great comeback victory last time out. The Monarchs are now 3-0-1 at Zions Bank Stadium and 0-3-1 on their travels, which is still good enough to have Head Coach Martin Vasquez’s side firmly in the middle of the playoff positions in the Western Conference. Real has looked for more than that in the past two seasons, however, and if it’s to be a challenger at the top of the conference standings it’s going to have to figure out a way to produce the sort of performances it does at home when it heads on the road.
HOME STATEMENT: One key for expansion sides is quickly establishing a presence at their home venue. With two wins and a draw from its opening three-game homestand at Bold Stadium, Austin accomplished just that as it built confidence and a solid platform to build on as it heads out on the road next weekend to face the LA Galaxy II. Friday night’s performance might not have been as sharp defensively as the previous two shutouts, but the side’s willingness to battle for each other even when down to 10 men was reflected in Bold FC winning 58.1 percent of duels, 59 percent of aerials and recording four blocked shots in a solid rearguard action in the second half. There’s still a long way to go, but Bold FC’s goal of being a postseason team in its inaugural season appears to be on the right track.