In thrilling fashion, Austin FC II claimed the Western Conference crown on Sunday night.
A scoreless stalemate put the goalkeepers in the spotlight and the trusty hands of 2023 Goalkeeper of the Year Damian Las paid off once again.
Las has put on many incredible performances in 2023- but this one was the biggest. His two shootout saves led his team to the MLS NEXT Pro Cup in a shootout win over Western Conference powerhouse Colorado Rapids 2.
Las stopped an attempt in the second round from Rapids 2's Oliver Larraz and another from Darren Yapi in the fourth round.
Jonathan Santillan scored with a chipped shot to finish off the penalty shootout in style and seal the title for ATXFC II.
There was little between either side across 120 minutes of regulation and extra time. Austin FC II found a late chance to win when Valentin Noel launched a shot that was saved by Rapids 2 goalkeeper Abraham Rodriguez in the 89th minute, and that miss set the stage for the shootout.
Both sides managed four shots on goal, with Rapids 2 taking 11 total shots and Austin FC II taking nine total shots. Clear-cut chances were hard to come by, but Rodriguez and Las finished level with five saves each prior to the decisive shootout.
Man of the Match
Las earned his 15th and most important clean sheet of 2023, stopping two shots in the shootout and making five saves in the 120 minutes of play.
The Best XI goalkeeper has been Austin FC II's key player all season and continued to prove his strength under pressure by standing strong to beat the top-seeded Rapids 2.
Moment of the Match
A diving save from Las set the table for Santillan's panenka-style kick from the mark that won the shootout. Las dove to his right to save a spot-kick by Yapi. Earlier in the shootout, Las only needed to stay in the middle of the goal to save an attempt by Larraz.
The Big Picture
Austin FC II is heading to Columbus to face Columbus Crew 2 in MLS NEXT Pro Cup on Sunday. As an expansion side, ATXFC II is riding a strong wave of momentum to the Ohio capital but faces the daunting task of beating the defending champs on their home soil.