Sports

The Verde Report: Has Austin FC Officially Righted the Ship?

Plus: Jon Gallagher tapped for All-Star team


Verde reigns after back-to-back 3-0 wins against in-state rivals Dallas and Houston

If, come the fall, Austin FC finds itself back in the MLS Cup Playoffs mix making another deep run like it did a year ago, we'll look back to the third week of June as the moment when everything turned the corner for the Verde and Black.

In the span of just 72 hours, El Tree clocked consecutive 3-0 wins at Q2 Stadium against its two Lone Star rivals, FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo, as everything seemed to click for the Green Team for the first time all season.

Now the question is ... is this the real Austin FC? Or just a brief run of good form from an otherwise mid squad? Well, despite the fact that both matches were at home, that FC Dallas was without several key starters, and that both Dallas and Houston got their tactics woefully wrong versus an Austin club they're supposed to know better than anyone ... there's enough reason for optimism that this could indeed be the start of something meaningful for ATXFC.

For starters, with the exception of the center back position, coach Josh Wolff finally has his first-choice lineup fully healthy and available, with the likes of Sebastián Driussi, Diego Fagúndez, Owen Wolff, and Gyasi Zardes all rounding into midseason form. Zardes in particular has been a revelation, scoring in back-to-back games and accounting for at least one goal contribution in six of his last seven MLS starts after a barren beginning to his ATX tenure. Fagúndez has also seemed to recapture a bit of 2022 magic after an injury-plagued first half of the season. And where Designated Player Emiliano Rigoni has struggled, veteran winger Ethan Finlay has swooped in to make his own case as week-in, week-out starter.

It's no coincidence that the first time all season that Austin FC rolled out the same lineup in consecutive matches, it won both by a combined 6-0. As a major byproduct of that newfound continuity, Austin FC has finally started to execute in the moments that matter most.

"[Earlier this season] we weren't bad all the time. It was just like these moments that we weren't clicking on. I think this week, we really hit on all of those moments," goalkeeper Brad Stuver said. "We're hoping that we can use this as a catalyst for the rest of the year and try and get hot here in the summer."

Up next: Austin FC faces Inter Miami CF at DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday, July 1.

Rado Returns Home

The only sour spot of the week for ATXFC came in Saturday's postgame press conference, when Wolff revealed that Aleksandar Radovanovié was departing the club. The Serbian center back, originally brought in on loan as a stopgap solution on the back line, had become a starter and fan favorite in his limited time in Austin, but that time is now up as an extension on the loan could not be reached.

"We're sorry to see him go. Unfortunately, for him there were other desires, and for his wife. I think we wish them all the best ... but it means we gotta get looking for a replacement," Wolff said.

It appears that center back will remain the club's top priority in the summer transfer window, just as it was coming into the season.

Gallagher Gets All-Star Nod

Earlier this month, we profiled how ATXFC utility man and surprise top goalscorer Jon Gallagher wrote down – while he was in college at Notre Dame – that he planned on becoming an MLS All-Star by year five of his pro career. Well, it took until year six, but this week Gallagher's goal came true as he was officially named to the All-Star roster for the match taking place July 19 in Washington, D.C. Some well-deserved recognition for a talented and immensely likable player.

Read more Austin FC coverage at austinchronicle.com/austin-fc.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin FC, The Verde Report, Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas, Jon Gallagher, Aleksandar Radovanovic, Josh Wolff

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