Something will have to give when Austin FC host Orlando City SC on Sunday in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs and a matchup of two of the more surprising teams in MLS so far.
Austin is the league's top scoring team and has been nearly unbeatable at home at 4-1-1. Orlando City has been defensive minded over the opening 2 1/2 months and one of MLS's best road teams at 3-1-2.
Austin FC (7-3-2, 23 points) has moved atop the Western Conference standings in the club's second year, taking over first place via a scintillating 2-1 win over Los Angeles FC on the road on Wednesday. Austin FC received goals from Ruben Gabrielsen and Diego Fagundez in the club's first win at LAFC.
The victory snapped Austin FC's two-game losing streak.
"All of these games have been important -- you see the grit, you see the grind, you see the chemistry that the guys have," said Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver, who had six saves in the victory. "This one just feels a little bit different. Being able to take points at LAFC is something special."
Austin FC have scored an MLS-leading 25 goals, a far cry from this point in their expansion season of 2021 when they had just 10 goals and had been shut out seven times.
Sebastian Driussi and Fagundez are the only teammates in MLS to produce nine or more goal contributions this season. Driussi had an assist in the win over LAFC and has racked up 11 goal contributions (seven goals, four assists), while Fagundez has nine goal contributions (two goals, seven assists).
Orlando City (6-4-2, 20 points) entered the weekend only a point out of first place in the East, but even with three other clubs at 20 points. The Lions have won four of their past six games, most recently a 1-0 victory at Toronto FC last Saturday thanks to Kyle Smith's stoppage time goal.
"The collectiveness that we are pursuing in this project, we saw it (against Toronto)," Orlando City coach Oscar Pareja said. "Everybody participated in doing the job. I liked the way we controlled the game the whole time. We came here to win, and the victory is ours, and we're very pleased and happy."
That victory was Orlando's third in its past five road games after it had only captured two of its previous 14 games away from home.
Nine different players have scored for Orlando City, but none have more than two goals. The squad boasts plenty of talented playmakers and Facundo Torres (two goals, four assists) and Alexandre Pato (two goals, three assists) are both likely to be a focus of the Lions' attack.
--Field Level Media