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Will Bruin’s stoppage time header brings Austin FC draw vs. Timbers

If a tie ever felt like a win, it was Austin FC’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers on Saturday.

Will Bruin’s header in stoppage time drew El Tree level at Providence Park and allowed the club to take a point out of a road game where it didn’t play all that well and seemed destined to be a loss following Claudio Bravo’s well-placed goal that put Portland ahead in the 71st minute.

Here are some thoughts from the match as Austin FC (2-4-4, 10 points) returns home for a midweek game in the US Open Cup vs. New Mexico United.

Driussi injury worst news possible

It wasn’t a huge surprise that Austin FC’s best player, Sebastián Driussi, didn’t start the game considering he doesn’t enjoy playing on turf surfaces like the one at Providence Park and the fact El Tree is about to embark on a heavy schedule the rest of the month.

But Austin FC coach Josh Wolff revealed in his postgame press conference that Driussi is dealing with a groin injury and did not give a specific timeline on his return.

It comes as a small shock, as Driussi was in training gear Thursday when the media arrived at the team’s practice facility for Wolff’s weekly press conference.

In a season full of injuries, this is the worst possible one for El Tree, and with wing Diego Fagundez still sidelined with his groin injury, Austin FC is missing two of its three best offensive players.

Taking all of this into account, the fact El Tree pulled a tie out of the hat late Saturday is even more important.

Ties on the road are acceptable, no matter what form or fashion they come in.

Club’s focus next month may have to be reevaluated

Without Driussi and Fagundez unavailable — and left back Zan Kolmanic, who is out for the year after tearing his ACL — the goal for Austin FC over the next month, where it could play eight times between now and June 3, is to tread water.

El Tree is currently in 12th place in the Western Conference and two points out of the ninth and final playoff spot, but the standings this early in the season aren’t a huge concern.

From a points perspective, if he can enter the June 10 match at Kansas City within three points of ninth place, that should be considered acceptable with the current selection of healthy players.

If Driussi is out for any significant length of time, the focus needs to be making a run in the second half of the season, and — though it can’t even remotely suggest this publicly — it may need to back off on any plans to start its top players in the US Open Cup.

While trophies are important in the sport of soccer, there’s only one winner, and possibly losing another key player in the early rounds of a competition few will remember in October — or even August for those clubs who don’t advance to the semifinals — isn’t It’s not worth it.

Everyone remembers Austin FC’s great season a year ago; few remember it lost in its first US Open Cup game to a team from a lower division.

Ironically, that may have been a blessing in disguise, as it lessened El Tree’s match schedule for the rest of the season.

At this very moment, the goal for the club needs to be to finish in the top seven in the West, and if the US Open Cup doesn’t fall into those plans due to injuries, so be it.

Man of the Match: Owen Wolff

This may have been the 18-year-old’s best game as a pro.

His cross on Bruin’s header was nothing short of brilliant, while he was smart with the ball and made good passes all match long.

Both Owen Wolff and Emiliano Rigoni — who made a nice cross on Jon Gallagher’s goal — had very good games of what was an otherwise forgettable performance by the club, but Owen Wolff was excellent from start to finish.

Forward issues

It was a bit puzzling why forward Gyasi Zardes was allowed to play 84 minutes when he was no more effective than he has been all season?

Bringing in Bruin or Maxi Urruti as soon as Portland took the lead would likely have yielded more scoring chances than leaving Zardes and his tired legs in the game.

On another note, Bruin now has more goals in 40 minutes this season than Zardes — who still has yet to score — does in 494.

And the previous sentence looks worse when considering Bruin at 33 years old is likely in his last professional season and probably making around $150,000, while Zardes’ salary could be north of $1 million.

It also says something when Gallagher leads the team in scoring as an outside back.

It’s painful to write as Zardes is a fun-loving guy with a great personality, but 10 games into the season his offseason signing looks to be a very poor decision by the club.

Cascante returns

On the good news front, center back Julio Cascante made his return to the club after suffering a groin injury 12 minutes into the season opener.

Cascante surprisingly started and was solid during his 70 minutes on the field.

His availability gives the defense depth it hasn’t had all season and allows Josh Wolff the possibility to use Alex Ring in the midfield.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Austin FC scores in final minutes to earn a draw