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If you stayed up to watch FC Dallas defeat Minnesota United on Monday, you witnessed one of the most entertaining matches of the MLS postseason’s first round.

The cagey affair offered a little bit of everything for die-hard soccer fans, from big-time goalkeeper saves to a walk-off Panenka that gave FCD a 5-4 victory via penalty shootout. If you don’t understand what some of those phrases mean, you’re in the right place.

A new fan hopping on a team’s bandwagon is part of the beauty in sports, especially when it takes place in a postseason setting. Here’s a primer of what you need to know as FCD goes into a showdown with in-state rival Austin FC in the Western Conference semifinals Sunday.

Get to know Austin FC

Austin FC is one of Major League Soccer’s newest franchises, playing its first season in 2021.

After finishing 12th in the Western Conference last year, the Austin club quickly found its footing to become one of the league’s top teams in 2022. Part of the team’s turnaround can be attributed to the reliable shot stopping ability of keeper Brad Stuver and a quick attacking line led by Sebastián Driussi, Maximiliano Urruti and Diego Fagúndez.

Driussi scored 22 goals in the regular season, finished second in the MLS Golden Boot race behind Hany Mukhtar of Nashville SC.

FCD was in complete control of its fresh rivalry with Austin FC heading into 2022, but that changed quickly as the Frisco-based club looked to adjust under first-year manager Nico Estévez. FC Dallas won all three of the meetings between the clubs last year, but couldn’t come away with victories in their recent showdowns.

The first meeting of 2022 ended in a 2-2 draw, while the second contest saw the teams tie 1-1.

Like FCD, Austin FC advanced to the conference semis via penalties after outlasting a spirited effort from Real Salt Lake. The Texas rivalry will add another chapter on Sunday at Q2 Stadium in Austin.

Ferreira and Arriola’s World Cup hopes

Although FCD’s Jesus Ferreira and Paul Arriola are probably focused on making their club a champion, they also have their sights set on a bigger tournament that is about a month away.

Ferreira and Arriola have the chance to represent the U.S. Men’s national team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Arriola is considered a veteran for national team call-ups, featuring in 48 matches for the squad with 10 goals scored and seven assists.

Although Ferreira has less experience with the senior team, he stated that his goal was to become the starting striker for the USMNT in Qatar.

“I think that’s the ultimate dream, but there’s little dreams below that,” Ferreira said in August. “I have to do things right here with the club: keep scoring, keep assisting, keep working hard because there other things to my game that aren’t just scoring.

“So, it’s just how to make sure that I keep doing those things to keep playing good and make that roster.”

The USMNT will face Wales, Iran and England in the World Cup group stage starting in November.

The Nico Estévez effect

Estévez is exactly what FCD needed after going through a down year in 2021. The club missed the playoffs last year and needed new energy after former manager Luchi Gonzalez was sacked, eventually landing an assistant role on Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT staff.

That assistant role? It used to belong to Estévez. The role reversal worked well for the Spaniard, as he led FCD back to the top of the West with a late boost of momentum in the regular season. He also played a pivotal role in helping Ferreira become one of the league’s top forwards, netting 18 goals to tie the club’s single-season goalscoring record.

Before Estévez landed in MLS, he made a name for himself in Spain’s La Liga in the academy ranks of Valencia CF. He’s well-acquainted with Berhalter after working with the USMNT manager from 2014-2017 at the Columbus Crew.

Questions about the playoff format?

The MLS Cup playoff format can be confusing, but it all makes sense once you get the hang of it.

Each round features single-elimination games, so you don’t have to worry about keeping tabs on aggregate scores. Since FCD defeated Minnesota United, it advanced to the Western Conference semifinals. If FC Dallas can defeat Austin FC, it would lock up a spot in the conference finals against LAFC or the LA Galaxy.

The winners of the Eastern and Western Conference finals go on to play for the MLS Cup.

A little strange, but not too confusing. One last bit of good news: the higher seed hosts matchups, including in the MLS Cup — so there could be more pro soccer played in Frisco this year. FCD is the third seed, and it would host LA Galaxy (fourth seed) of both teams prevailed.

Good luck getting in

Thinking about making a quick trip down to Austin to watch this instant classic? You might have some trouble finding tickets.

Austin’s Q2 Stadium has an innovative viewing experience that might include an appearance from club co-owner Matthew McConaughey. Tickets aren’t cheap and there’s no shame in enjoying the experience where you can.

If you can’t make it to the match in person, there are plenty of viewing options. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes if you wanted to get the Spanish commentator listening experience.

Find more FC Dallas coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.



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