Last season, Seattle dealt Austin one of their most humbling defeats during the Texan side's 2021 MLS expansion campaign, managing a 1-0 victory at Q2 Stadium despite a youth-filled lineup that was the first starting XI in league history to feature five players aged 19 and younger. One incredible Raul Ruidiaz golazo later, and Seattle emerged with a stunning three-point result.
When the Western Conference sides reconvene in Austin on Sunday (4:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes), Seattle might once again be forced into rotation, coming off their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal advancement past Liga MX's Club León on Thursday. Either way, head coach Josh Wolff said his team has to be prepared for a competitive match.
"I expect Seattle to put a team here that's going to come in and compete," Wolff told reporters on Wednesday. "Brian Schmetzer says it every time: They put a team out to win. … Challenging week for them, but these are things they've dealt with over many years. So, again, I expect them to put out a very competent, aggressive team and we'll be ready for them."
It's another strong early-season test for Austin FC, which dropped their last match 1-0 against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park in Week 3. That came on the heels of a blistering start with a league-record 10 goals in their first two matches via consecutive five-goal victories over FC Cincinnati and Inter Miami CF.
The Cascadia foes are a step up in class, Wolff said.
"I mentioned Portland and Seattle are the best in the West. It's not something I say lightly," he said. "They're a team that knows how to grind, they're a team that knows how to win. When they don't perform well they find ways to get results. There's a reason Seattle is playing in Champions League and performing well. There's a reason they're in MLS Cup finals. They're deep, they're well-coached and they're a competitive group. We'll have our hands full here, but we'll be prepared, we'll have our strategy.
"They may play with five at the back, which wouldn't surprise me, as they did last year, or they may come in a 4-2-3-1. We'll have some ideas for either of those, but regardless when we're at home we want to push the tempo, we want to be aggressive and we want to score goals and put us in a space to win the game."
With a third home fixture in four matches to start the season, midfielder Daniel Pereira said that continuing to protect the friendly confines of Q2 Stadium is also paramount. Improving the club's home form was a major point of emphasis for Austin in preseason after finishing with a 7W-8L-2D home record in their expansion year.
"Seattle's going to be a good game," Pereira said. "Obviously they have Concacaf going on midweek, so I don't know what they might do against us on Sunday, they might have five back at the back, but I know they'll be tired for sure against us, so we have to take advantage of that. They're another great team, so we're also at home. We talked about it before the season, we've got to stay strong at home. It's our fortress, our castle, we've just got to defend and take points at home."