The Verde Report: Top 10 Defining Moments of Austin FC’s Season
The highs and lows of the squad's Q2 debut
2021 was the Year of Soccer in Austin. The city welcomed Austin FC, the first major league pro sports franchise to call the Texas capital home, and cut the ribbon on a $260 million, 20,500-seat soccer stadium that has since become a favorite vacation rental spot for national teams across North America.
The Verde's first season did not go the way fans hoped it would, with just nine wins and a finish near the bottom of the Western Conference. But the 2021 campaign did provide a laundry list of historic firsts, dramatic moments, and indelible memories. Here are 10 we won't soon forget.
10) The First Match Austin FC was born at 5:01pm, Central time, on April 17, at kickoff of the season opening match between the Oaks and LAFC. Few were present to bear witness, as just 2,000 fans watched from inside Banc of California Stadium due to COVID policy at the time. Despite a 2-0 defeat, the moment signaled the beginning of the Verde Era in Austin.
9) Finishing High at Home Long since eliminated from playoff contention and playing entirely for pride, Austin FC captured its most impressive win of the season in its final match at Q2 on November 3. The 3-1 over Sporting Kansas City, Western Conference leaders at the time, provided a jolt of momentum heading into the offseason. Sebastián Driussi, Julio Cascante, and Jared Stroud had the goals.
8) Frisco Woes Austin FC fans had the August 7 matchup against FC Dallas circled on their calendars for months. The first road match within the state of Texas was a chance to show their Lone Star rivals how the new neighbors like to party. Approximately 1,000 Verde-clad fans made the trip north to Frisco, but arrived dazed and confused to find an Austin FC starting lineup missing four regular starters, including all three Designated Players. The result was a predictable 2-0 loss, and the start of many supporters' beef with head coach Josh Wolff.
7) Some "Bullshit" Wolff's own frustration came to a head late into the night of October 20, following a painful 4-0 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes. Observing that several players failed to give maximum effort during the second half, I asked Wolff in the postgame press conference if he felt the team had quit on each other. His response – calling it a "bullshit question" – became the most talked-about Austin FC quote of the season.
6) Copa Tejas Never mind what the standings say. Austin FC did contend for a trophy in 2021: Copa Tejas. By beating the Houston Dynamo on October 24, the Oaks earned themselves the chance to raise the cup for Texas superiority the following weekend, needing just to beat FC Dallas on the road. In the end, they could not ... but it was fun while it lasted!
5) Fagundez and Besler Sign Way back in the first week of January, Austin FC completed two key signings that would shape their inaugural season for the better. The first, Diego Fagundez, became not only the club's offensive MVP, but also the most popular player among fans. The second, Matt Besler, brought invaluable leadership and defensive prowess before a concussion sidelined him for the last 12 games.
4) Q2 Opens Its Doors Despite eight straight away matches to start the season, Austin FC never truly felt real until June 19, the first match at Q2 Stadium. The night had everything you could've asked for – a sellout crowd, a stunning tifo, club co-owner Matthew McConaughey in a green suit – except for goals. The match between Austin FC and the San Jose Earthquakes ended with a scoreless draw.
3) Driussi Arrives It took until the middle of the season, but Austin FC finally signed its franchise player in the form of Argentine midfielder Sebastián Driussi. Driussi cost a reported $7 million transfer fee from Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia, and so far has been worth every penny. He led Austin FC with five goals and five assists since debuting for the Verde in August, and represents a critical part of the club's future.
2) #DenVerde From the march down the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver early in the afternoon to Austin FC's first-ever goal scored just after 9pm that night, DenVerde weekend was nothing short of an iconic moment in the club's history. Your first-ever win (against the eventual Western Conference top seed, no less) will do that.
1) The First Home Win Third time was the charm for Austin FC at Q2 Stadium. After a pair of goalless draws, the beer showers finally got going on the 1st of July in a 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers. Jon Gallagher ignited the euphoria with a goal in the 28th minute, and Fagundez, Alex Ring, and Hector Jimenez followed suit. In a season full of unforgettable moments, that one simply could never be topped.