The Verde Report: Austin FC Players With the Most on the Line in 2022
Here are the members of El Tree feeling the pressure to perform in 2022
In the recent history of Major League Soccer expansion clubs, year two is pivotal. Some (Atlanta United, 2018) have ended theirs raising the MLS Cup trophy, while others (FC Cincinnati, 2020) have resulted in new benchmarks for futility. In total, exactly half of the eight MLS expansion teams to enter the league between 2015 and 2020 made the playoffs in their sophomore years, which is exactly where Austin FC hopes to land come the fall. In order for the Verde to get there, though, several key players will be shouldering big-time responsibility and expectation. Here are the members of El Tree feeling the most pressure to perform in 2022.
Austin FC's inaugural season can be divided into two halves: pre-Driussi and post-Driussi. Such was the impact the confident Argentine had on the club when he arrived in August for a $7 million transfer fee, leading Austin FC in goals and assists following his arrival and transforming the club's attack as a whole.
That has to continue in 2022, and has to happen over a full season. Driussi possesses the talent to compete for an MVP award in MLS and at the very least establish himself as the unquestioned star of the show in Q2 Stadium. If Austin FC makes the playoffs in 2022, it will be Driussi that led them there.
After swinging a big trade for the unflinching Finn and naming him club captain in 2021, Austin FC doubled down on its commitment to Ring this past winter. Not only did they sign him to a contract extension that elevated him to Designated Player status, but the club also brought in Colombian defensive midfielder Jhojan Valencia to take over the brunt of Ring's defensive duties.
Ring made no secret last year of his preference to get farther forward in the attack – something he rarely had authority to do with previous club NYCFC – nor of his confidence in doing so. He did end the season with four goals to show for it, fourth-best on the team. But now Ring will be expected to produce like an attacking player, and that's often easier said than done.
Austin FC's first-ever signing has become something of an afterthought after a disastrous first season in MLS. Redes played less than a quarter of the club's minutes in 2021 and managed just one assist with zero goals on two shots on target.
Redes dealt with nagging injury and culture shock as a rookie and will have just turned 22 by the time the new season starts, so there's reason to have optimism that the $2.75 million player (second on the club only to Driussi) signed is ready to make a splash. However, it's also true that Austin FC is overflowing with wingers and Redes may not get many opportunities to play his way into good form. ATXFC has already shown in loaning out Tomás Pochettino that it won't hesitate to pull the plug on a doomed arrangement with a big-money player, so it falls on Redes to reestablish his value to the club.
An honorable mention goes not to a player, but to the Verde's head coach. Frustration with the club's poor performances last season – combined with Wolff's reactions to some of those performances – won the second-year manager the ire of a not-insignificant portion of the ATX fan base. Still, barring another total disaster of a season, Austin FC will likely continue to be patient with Wolff, whose role in the foundation of the club goes beyond tactics and lineups.