Getting defensive: Brad Stuver, Žan Kolmanič lead Austin FC player ratings in 1-1 draw
Austin FC took a 1-0 first-half lead for the second time in 2021 at Sporting Kansas City. And for the second time in five weeks, the Verde and Black couldn’t hold that lead. Sporting leveled in the second half to force a 1-1 draw resulting in one point for each team. The contest was the last of an eight-game road trip for El Tree as a home match at Q2 Stadium against the San Jose Earthquakes is next on the docket.
Before coverage moves toward the home opener, we rate the player performances, on a scale of 1-10, from the 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City.
Brad Stuver (9), goalkeeper — The meteoric rise of Stuver reached new heights Saturday afternoon when the 30-year-old netminder recorded a career-high nine saves in the 1-1 draw. Stuver arrived in Austin with little fanfare and with even fewer expectations. He emerged from preseason as the starter ahead of higher-paid Andrew Tarbell to become one of only two players to start every match of the eight-game road trip. If Austin FC deserves an all-star in 2021, it is Stuver.
Žan Kolmanič (8), left back — Kolmanič created the Austin FC goal with a quick, decisive pass to Cecilio Domínguez in the 26th minute. Kolmanič started in his fifth consecutive match after taking over for an injured Ben Sweat in the middle of the Colorado Rapids game back in mid-April. Kolmanič played 90 minutes and was a constant threat down the left side without being a defensive liability.
Matt Besler (7), left center back — Besler, a Kansas City native who played 12 seasons at Sporting, was on familiar ground at Mercy Children’s Park. He played a consistent match, clearing multiple shots on target. Besler also completed 87.8% of his passes over 90 minutes. He’s started seven of the first eight matches.
At the whistle:Austin FC takes point in 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City
Julio Cascante (7), right center back — Cascante started his second straight match, and third overall for Austin FC. In those three matches, Austin FC has earned five of eight points. I don’t believe in coincidences. Cascante hasn’t done anything to lose his starting spot even if Jhohan Romaña gets back to full health.
Nick Lima (6), right back — Lima missed a few opportunities to find teammates on crosses that proved costly for Austin FC. The veteran gets in the right spots and always puts in a determined effort on the defensive end, but his final product lacked conviction and quality.
Alex Ring (8), defensive midfield — Ring found redemption in his return trip to Kansas City after earning a red card and a one-match suspension in the previous meeting. Ring led the team in touches and passes, as he normally does as the key man in the midfield. Ring’s calmness on the ball and tenacity when out of possession covers up a multitude of errors by Austin FC.
Diego Fagundez (7), midfield — Fagundez was asked to be more defensive with Austin FC, using what appeared to be a 4-4-2 with Ring and Fagundez playing in a double pivot. The 10-year MLS veteran wasn’t able to get on the front foot as much as he was allowed to in other matches, but his experience served him well as he broke up several Kansas City attacks with good positioning.
Tomás Pochettino (6), attacking midfield — Pochettino was moved up the field next to Domínguez as a pseudo-forward in a 4-4-2. Despite the advanced positioning, Pochettino failed to record a shot and he was the first player substituted. That’s not a great afternoon for one of the club’s two designated players. Fair or not, that tag creates expectations that Pochettino has yet to meet.
Jon Gallagher (6), left wing — Gallaher started on the left wing for the second consecutive game after spending the early part of the year as a center forward. Moving positions isn’t new for Gallagher, but he wasn’t at his best in the 1-1 draw. He recorded one shot.
Cecilio Domínguez (8), center forward — Domínguez scored in the 26th minute with a shot past a diving keeper into the bottom left corner. He beat the keeper with precision more than power. Dominguez leads the team with three goals, and he’s looked comfortable as a free-roaming center forward in place of the injured Danny Hoesen.
Jared Stroud (6), right wing — Stroud, like Gallagher, found the going tough in a return trip to Kansas City. Both were given more defensive responsibilities as the outside men in the 4-4-2 shape, which limited their ability to get forward on the break. Stroud only completed 58.3% of his passes.
Sebastian Berhalter (6) for Pochettino, 59th minute — Austin FC was chasing the ball for most of the 30-plus minutes that Berhalter was on the pitch. He did get a good look at goal but missed the target with his shot.
Manny Perez (7) for Gallagher, 59th minute — Perez was the most impactful substitute for Austin FC, which is even more impressive considering that he wasn’t brought in on loan until after the season started. Perez missed a great chance with an errant shot and probably should have recorded an assist after setting up Rodney Redes in front of goal. Perez’s athleticism is a nice addition off of the bench.
Kekuta Manneh (5) for Domínguez, 70th minute — Manneh was given the thankless task of playing center forward as the system devolved into a 4-5-1 after Sporting began dominating possession. That didn’t suit Manneh’s strengths and he was unable to hold up the play and release pressure.
Rodney Redes (5) for Stroud, 70th minute — Redes missed a point-blank opportunity that would have put Austin FC up 2-1 late in the match. The rookie started the opener, but he hasn’t looked confident so far in his tenure.
Jhohan Romaña (7) for Fagundez, 79th minute — Romaña left the Nashville match three weekends ago injured and missed the game at Seattle to close out May. He was back on the field as a substitute for the first time since that injury, and his physical presence was a welcomed addition as the Oaks were pinned back and defending set pieces and crosses into the box. Romaña started the first six matches.