The Austin Chronicle

The Verde Report: Austin Is Getting Great Soccer, Just Not From Austin FC

By Eric Goodman, July 30, 2021, Sports

Q2 Stadium is quickly becoming a soccer landmark.

Think about it.

The very first team to play, score, and win on its field was the world champion United States women's national team.

This week, that same field plays host to the very-much-not-world-champion-but-possibly- soon-to-be-Gold-Cup-champion U.S. men's team in a semifinal match against Qatar.

Can't make that one? Good news. Word came down last week that U.S. men – the real U.S. men, not the B-team assembled for the increasingly inconsequential Gold Cup – are going to circle back around to ATX for an October 7 World Cup qualifying match against Jamaica.

Maybe they're trying to catch Miley Cyrus at ACL.

If you're a local, though, who cares why? Austin, in its first year as a "soccer city" – which really just means "in its first year with an operational soccer stadium," since the sport's popularity in Central Texas was well documented long before Q2 – is getting some of the best live soccer of any place in the nation.

Just not from their MLS team.

The obligatory qualifier to that continues to be that if you buy a ticket for an Austin FC match, you're still pretty likely to have a great time thanks to the atmosphere in the stadium alone – something the higher-ups at U.S. Soccer have no doubt noticed.

But the soccer? It's lagging. Even for an expansion team.

Austin FC has won just once at home in five tries. Zero goals scored in every game but the lone win. A frequent, reassuring narrative while the club was working through struggles of a season-opening road trip was that things would take a turn for the better in Q2.

They just ... haven't. The Verde sit dead last in the Western Conference with 13 points (three wins and four draws) through 14 games. Last week, Austin FC dropped a match 1-0 to a Seattle Sounders team fielding five teenagers, the most ever deployed by one team in an MLS match. Men against boys hits different when the boys win.

So what can Austin FC do about it? Turns out, they need their boys. 21-year-olds, that is. When asked midweek how his club was able to have such one-off success against the Portland Timbers in a 4-1 win at home, head coach Josh Wolff immediately mentioned rookie midfielder Daniel Pereira.

The ATX attack seems to only function as designed when Pereira plays. He's been on the pitch for seven of the club's 10 goals. He has also been unavailable since sustaining an abdominal injury in a match against LAFC on July 7. The club anxiously awaits his return.

Similarly, they await 21-year-old Senegalese striker Moussa Djitté, whose arrival from France has gotten hung up in the red tape of visa and immigration procedure.

A third Designated Player acquisition seems to be nearing its completion as well. Unrelated: Might I recommend some highlight videos of Zenit St. Petersburg player Sebastián Driussi? Heckuva player. (Editor's note: On Thursday morning, Austin FC announced that Driussi, a 25-year-old Argentine attacking midfielder, has joined the club as a Designated Player.)

There's your formula. Is it a guarantee for unlocking consistent winning soccer? Far from. But it's what the Verde have right now. That, and a stadium put on the fast track to soccer A-list status.

Wouldn't it be nice if the main tenants started contributing to that?

Austin FC next takes on the Colorado Rapids at Q2 Stadium on Saturday, July 31. The match will air locally on the CW Austin and in Spanish on UniMás.

Copyright © 2023 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.