The Verde Report: The Only Game in Town
By Eric Goodman, Fri., April 30, 2021
When the assembled crowd of 7,897 exited Dick's Sporting Goods Park outside Denver Saturday night, roughly 7,697 of it did so mildly disappointed. They had just witnessed their hometown Colorado Rapids get picked apart by Major League Soccer newbies Austin FC in a blitzkrieg of a second half to lose 3-1 in the second game of the season. But there was plenty to take their mind off it.
That same night, the NBA's Denver Nuggets steamrolled the Houston Rockets at the Pepsi Center (which is actually in Denver) to stay fourth in the Western Conference. The NHL's Colorado Avalanche lost a tight one to the St. Louis Blues but had already clinched a playoff berth. Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies fell to the Philadelphia Phillies but dominated the following day to win the three-game series. Even the Denver Broncos, who hold the ninth pick in the April 29 NFL draft, offered a distraction.
For the remaining 200-odd fans at DSG Park, most standing (sometimes jumping, but never sitting) in section 134 and cloaked in verde, along with the thousands of Central Texas residents watching from home and making Austin FC vs. Colorado Rapids on CW Austin the most-watched TV broadcast of the night locally, there was no other game in town.
Two weeks into his club's debut season and before it has even hosted its first home game, it is more clear than ever why majority owner Anthony Precourt was hell-bent on trading Ohio (he previously owned Columbus Crew SC) for Austin. ATXFC is the only current MLS club that does not share a city – or media coverage, or residents' disposable income – with a franchise from one of the "core four" American sports leagues. In Denver this past weekend, known forevermore as "DenVERDE Weekend," the consequences of that were obvious. "Our guys hung out on that field after the game and hopefully gave the fans everything they deserved because they helped push us. They helped drive us," head coach Josh Wolff said. "Their support has been instantaneous."
Put It in a Museum
Diego Fagundez, a midfielder who made history in 10 seasons with the New England Revolution as the youngest MLS player to score 50 goals, may now forever be associated first with Austin FC after scoring the first goal in club history. "From my first professional game, I said to myself 'make your name known.' Well new team and I did just that," Fagundez wrote on Instagram next to a clip of the goal. The ball he tucked into the bottom corner will go on display inside the St. David's Performance Center where Austin FC trains, according to Wolff.
Next Man Up
First-choice left-back Ben Sweat suffered a torn ACL in the win over Colorado, an MRI confirmed. "Words can't describe the sadness that I feel right now knowing that this entire season was taken away from me in a blink of an eye," he wrote on social media. Twenty-one-year-old Slovenian Žan Kolmanič, an elite crosser of the ball on offense with progress to make on the defensive end, is expected to get most of the minutes at left-back going forward.
Midfielder DP Tomás Pochettino was a late scratch from Saturday's lineup when MLS HQ asked that he be held out while it investigates "a potential league-related administrative issue regarding Tomás Pochettino's registration." On Wednesday, Austin FC reported that Major League Soccer had given Pochettino the all-clear for "all future competitions."
Center-back Matt Besler was absent from Saturday's game, too, but for more festive reasons, announcing via Twitter the arrival of a "brand new Austin FC fan," son Miller James.
Austin FC faces Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field on Saturday, May 1, 7pm, broadcast on UniMás Austin, CW Austin, and ALT 97.5FM, and streaming on the Austin FC website and app.