It's nice to be nylon at Q2 Stadium. Through the stadium's first two Major League Soccer matches, Austin FC has so far been unable to connect ball with net even once. Luckily for El Tree, though, neither has the opposition. Brad Stuver has made sure of that.
Austin's 30-year-old, 6-foot 3-inch goalkeeper has been a godsend for the expansion club that currently cannot score goals, and the Verde faithful have taken notice. Deprived, so far, of an opportunity to erupt in celebration of a score, Q2 Stadium's sellout crowds have gotten plenty of practice saluting Stuver with a mushroom cloud of – no, not "booo," but – "STUUUV" each time he foils a visiting striker's shot.
Stuver leads MLS with 54 saves through 11 games. Fifteen of those saves have come in two home matches, the first two in club history. Most recently, the Mayfield, Ohio, native repelled his former club, the Columbus Crew, six times to preserve a nil-nil draw for Austin FC on Sunday.
Just how good has Stuver been this year? According to StatsBomb, based on the frequency and location of shots fired on Austin FC's net this season, opponents should have scored nearly 18 goals total. Stuver has allowed just 11. No other MLS keeper has come within two of the near seven-goal net positive impact Stuver has had stopping shots for Austin FC through one-third of the season. Not bad for a career backup getting his first opportunity to anchor an MLS defense.
"I've been working for a long time to get to this point, and I've had confidence in myself that when I get my chance that I was going to take it," Stuver said. "I wasn't expecting to be under as many shots as we've given up this year, but that is the life of a first-year team."
In about two months' time, MLS will field an All-Star team in an exhibition match against stars from Mexico's Liga MX. If Stuver keeps up his level of play until then, he'll find himself starting between the posts, representing the league in which he's spent nine years honing his craft away from the spotlight.
"If it happens, it would be a great honor," Stuver said. "But my full focus is just on Austin FC right now and going out and delivering results to our fans. They've been amazing."
Meanwhile, on the goalscoring front, help is finally on the way, and it's coming from the French Alps.
Austin FC announced Wednesday the signing of 21-year-old Senegalese center forward Moussa Djitté from French second division team Grenoble, where he scored 15 goals in 62 games since 2019.
Djitté is signed through 2024, with an option for an additional year after that. When he makes his Austin FC debut – likely in a July 22 home game against the Seattle Sounders – he will be the club's only healthy true striker after Danny Hoesen underwent hip surgery this week and is out indefinitely.
"[Djitté] is a natural fit in that position," Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said. "Really good mobility, holds the ball up well, he likes to make runs in different areas. He can score in many different ways. He's also creative, good on the ball ... He's going to give our team a big lift for sure, and I'm positive that our fans are going to love watching him play."
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