The Verde & Black fell 2-1 in the Copa Tejas showdown at Shell Energy Stadium in Houston.
Senior forward Zardes' opening header was assisted by a powerful long cross from senior defender Nick Lima in the 22nd minute. This marked Zardes's third consecutive MLS match with a goal.
Houston then made it 1-1 with a shot from senior midfielder Héctor Herrera in the 37th minute.
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Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver made a crucial save in the 57th minute on a shot from Herrera to keep the score tied. Senior forward Maxi Urruti’s shot in the 79th minute came close to giving Austin the lead, but went just wide of the post.
Houston found the winning goal in the 87th minute with midfielder Iván Franco saving a lost corner kick.
Austin FC will play its eighth home match and fifteenth match overall of the 2023 MLS regular season against Minnesota United FC on Wednesday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m. CT.