The Verde Report: Austin FC Must “Accept Its Mission” by Winning Copa Tejas
In-state bragging rights on the line at Saturday's clash with Dallas FC
The script pretty much writes itself.
EXT. TOYOTA STADIUM – FRISCO, TX
At the end of an agonizing first season in which growing pains morphed into straight-up blunt force trauma, Austin FC players hoist Copa Tejas high in the air, basking in the glory of Texas supremacy after defeating FC Dallas on Oct. 30.
ALEX RING (ATXFC CAPTAIN)
We're so proud to win this trophy for our fans who have supported us all season, and we can't wait to build on this moment next season!
EXT. Q2 STADIUM – AUSTIN, TX
With Copa Tejas proudly displayed in the Verde Store at Q2 Stadium, Austin FC returns to the pitch next spring retooled and refocused, and becomes Major League Soccer's most improved club in 2022.
Now who among the Verde faithful would pass up a ticket to that screening? The thing is, there's still a chance that it could unfold before our eyes in living color. On Sunday, the Oaks showed refreshing passion and determination in dismissing the Houston Dynamo, 2-1, at Q2 Stadium, setting up Saturday's clash against FC Dallas with in-state bragging rights (and silverware) on the line.
Finally, we now know for certain that Austin FC has its eyes on the Copa Tejas prize. No less than majority owner Anthony Precourt expressed as much, tweeting Tuesday a call to action for his club in the vein of Mission: Impossible.
"Your mission, should you choose to accept it..." Precourt wrote, followed by, "@CopaTejas! Let's go! #Verde"
We assume that Josh Wolff and the ATX players do accept. They have yet to beat FC Dallas in two previous tries this year, each representing a particularly memorable defeat in a season jam-packed with them.
On Aug. 7, the Austin FC traveled to Frisco for the first time, joined by several hundred Verde supporters. Those fans were frustrated to watch a heavily rotated ATX squad lose 2-0 after playing conservatively most of the match. Then, three weeks later, FC Dallas scored three goals in less than five minutes at Q2 Stadium to win 5-3, with Ricardo Pepi stealing the headlines.
The Toros have endured just as poor of a season as has Austin FC, and come into the match in worse form than their Capital City counterparts. The Verde should enter this contest confident, rested, and motivated, and should leave with an extra piece of shiny cargo on the bus ride home.
Driussi Providing the Spark
Perhaps the best thing to come out of either prior FC Dallas match for Austin FC was the debut of Argentine designated player Sebastián Driussi in the second half of the Aug. 7 match.
Driussi has been exactly what the Verde needed him to be, providing class and creativity from his attacking midfield position since joining from Russia at midseason.
Austin FC spent – according to multiple reports – $7 million on acquiring Driussi from Zenit, St. Petersburg, making him one of the 20 most expensive players in MLS history. The results have been immediate, to the tune of four goals and five assists in 14 games, including a well-taken shot from the top of the box for Austin FC's second goal against Houston Sunday.
Driussi leads the club in goals plus assists per 90 minutes. Since his arrival in August, Austin FC has scored nearly a half-goal more per game on average. Had the club's defending not fallen off a cliff in that same span, it surely would have contributed to more wins.
Driussi has been a joy to watch this season. He gravitates to the ball and makes good things happen with it. For a club that desperately needed a centerpiece to build around for the future, the 25-year-old Driussi appears to be exactly that.
The Bold... Fold
According to a report Tuesday by executive director of The Striker Texas and former Austin Bold FC general manager Roberto Silva, the Bold will shut down operation at Circuit of the Americas following the 2021 season and relocate to Ft. Worth following an ownership change.
"Club sources say the Austin Bold FC owner [Bobby Epstein] informed players and staff this morning that the team is not playing after this season. The move to Fort Worth is happening but depends on stadium construction, so it may not happen next year," Silva wrote. "Current Austin ownership still exploring other leagues to play at COTA. NISA, USL1 and USL2 are all on the table."
Undesirable location, poor brand strength, and questionable ownership strategies can all be cited as valid reasons the USL Championship club will leave after three seasons, but competing with an MLS club for consumer dollars was always a tough ask.