Austin FC’s Concacaf Champions League debut quickly turned into a nightmare Tuesday night, losing 3-0 to Haitian side Violette AC in their Round of 16 first-leg match.
The away clash, played in the Dominican Republic due to safety concerns, saw Austin's heavily-rotated XI undone by a familiar sequence on three separate occasions: Violette winger Roberto Louima attacking the backline’s right side before finding striker Miche-Naider Chéry centrally.
Chéry finished thunderous headers in the 13th and 39th minutes, beating Austin center back Amro Tarek in the air on both occasions after Louima’s speed caused problems. Then Tarek scored a head-in-hands own goal in the 47th minute, mishitting an attempted clearance after Brad Stuver’s sprawling save on Chéry followed Louima’s deflected shot.
Adding injury to insult, Tarek was subbed off in the 66th minute after picking up a knock – compounding Austin’s worrisome backline health for league play and the all-decisive second leg on March 14 at Q2 Stadium.
Austin had some chances – Rodney Redes' volley went wide in the 27th minute and Maxi Urruti struck woodwork in the 86th minute – but consistent threats were few and far between against the 2022 Caribbean Club Championship winner.
- THE BIG PICTURE: It’s early in Austin’s third-ever season, entering this prestigious continental competition after being the highest-ranked US team not already qualified (Western Conference finalist in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs). But that’s no excuse for head coach Josh Wolff’s group, which has a three-goal aggregate deficit to overcome in the second leg against a club that hasn't played consistent Ligue Haïtienne matches in years. The likes of Sebastián Driussi and Gyasi Zardes, who didn’t play vs. Violette, will likely need to be called upon at home next week. It's a tall mountain to climb, but not an insurmountable one.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Austin took a knockout punch in brutal fashion just after halftime. Amro Tarek's own goal seized the air out of any comeback hopes.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Austin's backline had no answer for Violette striker Miche-Naider Chéry, especially in the air.
- VIO: Tuesday, March 14 vs. Austin FC | 8 pm ET (FS2, TUDN) | Concacaf Champions League
- ATX: Saturday, March 11 at Real Salt Lake | 9:30 pm ET (MLS Season Pass) | MLS regular season