Austin, Texas • Brad Stuver stopped two tries in penalty time, a third one sailed high over the crossbar, and Austin advanced past Real Salt Lake 3-1 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in the MLS Cup Playoffs on Sunday.
“That’s how soccer is. The most important thing for me is how the team fought and battled for one another,” RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni said after his team had been knocked out of the playoffs. “They never stopped trying to get the result. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Austin, the second seed in the Western Conference, was victorious in its first playoff appearance and advanced to face either No. 3 Dallas or No. 6 Minnesota in the conference semifinals. Dallas and Minnesota play on Monday.
Austin rallied from an early 2-0 deficit, tying the score on a pair of goals by Sebastián Driussi, who also scored in the penalties. Diego Fagúndez and Emiliano Rigoni also scored as Austin went 3-for-3 against RSL’s Zac MacMath.
RSL took an early 2-0 lead when Sergio Córdova scored in the third minute and added a penalty kick in the 15th. Driussi, who scored 22 goals in the regular season, answered in the 31st minute and RSL went on to lead 2-1 at intermission.
Early in the second half, Salt Lake’s Rubio Rubin drew the first red card of his career and RSL played a man short for 67 minutes. The man advantage led to a 38-11 advantage in shots for Austin, with 11 shots on goal to 4. MacMath made 9 saves. While RSL was down a man, MacMath only allowed Druissi’s game-tying penalty kick in the 94th minute.
“We did everything we wanted to do. The moment we went down a man, it changed everything,” Mastroeni said. “We were two minutes from winning and that hurts, but the effort and how they fought for me is necessary to think about for the next season.”
Austin advances in the playoffs for the first time despite a late-season slump that resulted in only 4 wins in the final 16 matches and 1 win in the last 7 — a 3-0 victory over Real Salt Lake.