The Verde Report: Leagues Cup Loss Latest in Disturbing Trend for Austin FC

Josh Wolff’s club just can’t seem to figure out how to juggle multiple competitions in the same season

Courtesy of Austin FC

While Lionel Messi was doing what he does Friday night, scoring a game-winning free kick in his Inter Miami CF debut in front of LeBron James and Kim Kardashian, Austin FC was doing what it does: losing to an (on paper) inferior team in a non-MLS competition in front of a smattering of disappointed Verde fans.

In the latest installment of what's become a nasty habit for Josh Wolff's club, ATXFC lost 3-1 to Liga MX club Mazatlán FC at Q2 Stadium in the opening game of the inaugural Leagues Cup tournament. Mazatlán, the youngest club in the Mexican top flight, most recently finished dead last in Liga MX's Clausura campaign in the spring. And yet, Mazatlán now joins the likes of San Antonio FC, AC Violette, and the Chicago Fire on a growing, comically diverse list of clubs to upset the Verde and Black in a competition outside the confines of Major League Soccer.

The details change, but the problems stay the same: Josh Wolff's club just can't seem to figure out how to juggle multiple competitions in the same season. In the last 15 months, El Tree has bowed out of the last two U.S. Open Cups in the early stages, the CONCACAF Champions League in the first round, and now finds itself at serious risk of getting bounced from the Leagues Cup in the group stage despite hosting every match at Q2 Stadium.

It's not for lack of want to. At least, not if you believe the pregame hoopla. Each new competition is unfailingly greeted with a heavy dose of aspirational chitchat about "growing the legend" and "showing what we're about." But when it comes time to actually put ball into net, that's when things tend to fall apart.

A recurring trend in these ego-deflating eliminations has been an ATX starting lineup that leaves a lot to be desired. Such was the case Friday night as well, but to be fair to Wolff and company, much of that had to do with injuries. Sebastián Driussi, Dani Pereira, and Alex Ring all missed the match with various ailments, while Gyasi Zardes only managed 18 minutes of action before an adductor injury forced him to exit in the first half.

"It's a lot of guys that have a pretty big role inside the group, so it's difficult," Wolff said of the injuries. "But regardless of that ... the guys that were here, we had more than enough out there to get the result."

Mazatlán certainly didn't seem to think so. And a 3-1 scoreline suggests that Austin FC may have taken its south-of-the-border competition too lightly. Hopefully that lesson has been learned ahead of Saturday's final group stage match against FC Juárez. Anything less than a win won't cut it if Austin FC wants to avoid becoming one of just 17 teams (out of 47) to exit the Leagues Cup in the group stage.

Then again, the lesson wasn't learned against San Antonio. It apparently wasn't learned against Violette. Maybe Mazatlán will prove to have been the last straw. If not, the Verde and Black could be in for a very boring month watching Messi and the rest of North America's best from the couch.

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Austin FC, The Verde Report, Leagues Cup, Mazatlan FC, Lionel Messi, Inter Miami CF, FC Juarez

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