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Tuesday, November 29, 2022
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FC Dallas vs Austin FC Semi-Conference Preview

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FC Dallas Players | Image by FC Dallas

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On Sunday, FC Dallas will head three-and-a-half hours south on I-35 to face No. 2 seed Austin FC for a chance at the Major League Soccer (MLS) Conference title.

Both teams have dealt with a fair amount of disrespect this season, something players and coaches on both teams have used as fuel to motivate success.

Disrespected no more, the two in-state teams are well on their way to building a rivalry that could echo through the halls of MLS for generations.

“If we want people to look at us and talk about us, we have to do better,” said FC Dallas head coach Nico Estevez. “If we do better and we do big things, then people will start talking about us. We try to focus on ourselves, we try to be better every single day, don’t put limits [on ourselves], and this is our motivation as a group.”

He added, “To [have] people talk [about] you, you have to do big things. And then this game against Austin, it could help us to give this next step, where OK, it is no more a surprise team, it’s, this team is going forward.”

The situation is much the same for Austin FC which joined MLS in 2021 and managed to win only nine games in the inaugural season. The team came storming into 2022, ready to prove that they belonged in the league.

They went 16-10-8 with a +16 goal differential and easily secured a spot in the playoffs.

Winning as an expansion team is always a challenge both on the field and off.

Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff put it on his players at the onset of the season, printing out the MLS’ preseason prediction that placed the team 12th of 12 teams, one spot behind FC Dallas.

“It was an illustration of what we were thought of,” Wolff said at a Thursday press conference. “It was just showing and illustrating what we were looking at, how we’re viewed by the league, maybe by players in the league, by pundits in the league. It was just an initial, I think, stance and a reminder to our guys: We got a lot to prove. And the way you prove that is consistency, is going out and getting results and earning respect. And I think our guys have done that.”

Those preseason predictions now seem silly with FC Dallas eliminating Minnesota United — ranked at No. 9 in the preseason — and Austin ending Real Salt Lake’s hopes for glory. Salt Lake was ranked No. 10 by MLS before the start of the season.

Now the two teams will square off to determine who will represent the Western Conference. Austin FC has the slightest edge going into the match, but with two teams that play fast and aggressively, this game could be a high-scoring affair.

No matter the outcome, both Austin and Dallas have cut out a name for themselves this season and are not likely to be written off as easy wins by MLS teams in 2023.

The winner Sunday will play against either New York City FC or CF Montreal, who are also slated for semi-conference finals early on Sunday.

While playing for a chance to represent the West in the finals is a lofty goal, both teams will be secure in knowing that their 2022 season performances have put these two Texas teams on the map.

The match between FC Dallas and Austin FC will begin at 7 p.m. CST in Austin on Sunday.

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