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Whew! Finally, Austin FC ending its hectic stretch of schedule vs. Real Salt Lake

Austin FC's Sofiane Djeffal, left, and Julio Cascante clear the ball in front of Brad Stuver during Wednesday's win over Minnesota.  El Tree is finishing up a stretch of nine matches in a 29-day span.

Austin FC’s Sofiane Djeffal, left, and Julio Cascante clear the ball in front of Brad Stuver during Wednesday’s win over Minnesota. El Tree is finishing up a stretch of nine matches in a 29-day span.

Austin FC’s grinding stretch of nine matches in 29 days is finally coming to a close.

After Saturday’s match vs. Real Salt Lake at Q2 Stadium, El Tree will have more than three days off for the first time since early May going into its June 10 contest at Kansas City.

It’s a span in which Austin FC has generally played well, winning three of its last four league matches, but coach Josh Wolff said there’s no doubt it’s taken a toll on his players.

“We’ve got some guys who are dinged up and absolutely exhausted,” Wolff said. “We’ll put a group out as fresh as we can, and our guys are resilient and will get through. We have exhausted legs and exhausted minds, but winning gives you confidence, and we’ll try to end it on a good note.”

The good news for El Tree (5-6-4, 19 points), which moved back into a playoff position after Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Minnesota, is that Real Salt Lake (4-7-4, 16 points) has gone through the same gauntlet.

More: Report shows the cost for Austin FC season ticket-holders has increased 4.5%

It’s coming off a 3-2 home loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday when it lost a late lead by giving up two goals in three minutes, so momentum and mentality will be on Austin FC’s side. El Tree will also have the benefit of having designated player Sebastián Driussi available for another 30-minute shift.

After missing a month with a groin injury, Driussi made his return against Minnesota and provided the winning goal in the 82nd minute with a svelte shot on a loose ball in the box.

Wolff noted that his presence gives the club an immediate boost.

“It provides energy, belief, and its quality is obvious,” Wolff said. “The players can feel the energy when he steps on the field, and he’s built that over 18 months. … We have to find ways to move him around and find other people that can occupy his position, so he can do what he does well in arriving in the box, losing his defender and getting in spaces where he has chances in front of the goal. “

Austin FC has weathered the past month without Driussi, and a win Saturday would put it in prime position for a run in the second half of the season with midfielder Owen Wolff soon to return from the under-20 World Cup.

“We have to keep building off the performances,” Josh Wolff said.

Radovanovic plays through dislocated shoulder

Defender Aleksandar Radovanovic wasn’t fazed by a dislocated shoulder he suffered shortly after coming on in the second half Wednesday.

Austin FC medical personnel simply put it back in place, and he played the rest of the game.

“He’s had that before,” Wolff said. “But it’s scary when it happens that quickly after he enters the game.”

Radovanovic, who is on loan through the end of the month but whose transfer option will probably be picked up, put in a good shift and should start vs. Real Salt Lake with other center backs Julio Cascante and Alex Ring having logged plenty of minutes last month.

Radovanovic’s “ability to compete and be combative is valuable,” Wolff said. “He’s a seasoned pro who has played in a number of different countries. He wants to defend, and he’s done well on the field.”

Dani Pereira is called up by Venezuela

In continuing proof that midfielder Dani Pereira is receiving attention on a large scale, he received a call-up to the Venezuelan national team for the two friendlies he will play later this month during the international break.

It’s the first call-up to the senior national team for Pereira, who was born in and spent the first 15 years of his life in Venezuela before emigrating to the United States. As a youth, he played for Venezuela’s under-14 and under-17 teams.

The first pick of the 2021 MLS Superdraft by Austin FC, Pereira was a consistent starter a year ago and this season has been one of the club’s better players.

Wolff has indicated that El Tree has received interest in him from clubs overseas, and he could be a candidate to be sold in the summer transfer window or the offseason.

What to expect vs. Real Salt Lake

Austin FC could start a lineup with most of its key players having played 60 or 90 minutes vs. Minnesota.

Ring might not start but could come on in the second half as a sub for Cascante, or vice versa.

It’d be a surprise if Radovanovic didn’t start, while winger Emiliano Rigoni and forward Maxi Urruti should start after playing only 30 minutes on Wednesday. Forward Gyasi Zardes might come off the bench, but don’t be surprised to see reserve forward Will Bruin receive some minutes.

Midfielder Rodney Redes didn’t play Wednesday and should be available for 90 minutes, and it will be interesting to see what Wolff does with outside backs Jon Gallagher and Adam Lundkvist, who have seen a lot of time on the field recently. Winger Diego Fagundez will probably come off the bench along with Driussi.

Although you always want to protect your home field in the MLS, considering Austin FC’s injury issues, a tie in this match wouldn’t be the worst result.

But Real Salt Lake is traveling on two days’ rest and coming off a gut punch of a loss, so a win might be there for the taking.

Saturday’s match

Real Salt Lake (4-7-4, 16 points) at Austin FC (5-6-4, 19 points), 7:30 pm, Q2 Stadium, Apple TV, 97.5

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Austin FC hopes for fourth win in five MLS games as it hosts RSL