Austin FC finally got off the schneid at home, and did so in a big way with a dominant, relentless 4-1 win over Portland on Thursday night. It was the Verde’s first win in exactly two months, and was the first time in a good long while they looked like the team I kinda sorta thought they would become back in April when they came out of the gates playing good ball.
The key was Josh Wolff’s decision to station Diego Fagundez, who’s mostly been a central midfielder this year, at left wing. Possession is, for a lot of teams, an overrated statistic — one that doesn’t really matter. Austin are not one of those teams; possession matters for them a lot. They want the ball, and they want to use the ball to disorganize their opponents. They have struggled with the latter.
Against Portland they did not, collecting nearly 70% possession (part of this was the Timbers just tapping out), completing over 90% of their passes and funneling a lot of both through Fagundez and DP Cecilio Dominguez, once again operating as a false 9, in the half-spaces. Portland could not keep up.
Fagundez, when he’s on the wing, loves to drop into those spots and become an auxiliary playmaker, as does Dominguez. Both are much less linear than the other, more traditional options, and by changing the functionality of those spots rather than the shape (it was still a 4-3-3 from Austin), Wolff was able to get his team to create constant central midfield overloads that shredded the visitors. Just look at their network passing graph, made using Opta data: