There is a party going on in Austin, Texas and it’s at Q2 Stadium and the invitees are dressed in green and black. For Austin FC it’s a revindication of all the effort that was put in by the front office and owners in their first season in 2021. A first season that was a celebration that the club had entered MLS and not much more after a dismal 9-21-4 season.
One of the things Josh Wolff’s team got right was the signing of Argentine forward Sebastián Driussi, of River Plate fame, Driussi’s arrival gave the lackluster team a bit of a spark and was one of the players to watch entering the new season. The outlook at the start of the season for Austin FC was not good, we here at Bolavip even picked Josh Wolff to be the first manager sacked in 2022, but the club has silenced their critics and pundits have had to eat their words.
So, what is behind the turn around? Why is Austin FC the second-best team overall in MLS in 2022? It was a key core of players that needed a few pieces and not be blown up, it’s because Austin built around a star and now, now Q2 Stadium is living up to its promise of being the place to be in MLS.
How Austin FC turned it around
After an initial season that saw the club bring in high priced players and some MLS veterans that simply did not gel, the organization made the right decision to add key pieces and not blow the whole thing up.
The arrival of Maxi Urruti gave the team a veteran striker familiar with MLS, Ethan Finlay an experienced winger with USMNT pedigree were two home run signings to complement Diego Fagúndez who was one of the lone bright spots of the inaugural season. Fagúndez was rejuvenated in 2021 and now is playing to his potential around pieces that can lighten his load letting the Uruguayan contribute in a big way.
Sebastián Driussi is the key x-factor, a positive signing when he arrived in July of 2021, no one expected Driussi to be MVP material this early in his MLS career. Driussi is playing in a role he excelled in at River Plate under Marcelo Gallardo where he won 6 titles. In Russia it was the same story, 5 titles where Driussi is remembered fondly. Driussi is fully invested in his DP status, and you can tell by his reactions on the field and his social media feed, a Diego Valeri like player that knows Austin FC and MLS could be the key place in his career.
Austin FC leads the league in goals, assists, goals inside the 18, and have the league’s leading goal scorer and assist leader. Austin FC has also had nearly 60% of possession of the ball in their last 4 MLS matches, the team is simply clicking after a lot of growing pains left a lot of observers with big questions last season where the team could only win two games in a row only once.
All of this despite missing DP midfielder Cecilio Domínguez who has been suspended by the league for what was stated as “off-field misconduct”, which has led to a lot of speculation although Domínguez’s agent has stated the suspension is “a misunderstanding” and is related to his green card status and not disciplinary.
Even without Domínguez kudos to the front office for seeing when something wasn’t working and freeing up cap space and getting something in return for assets that could command some transfer value. The club loaned Tomás Pochettino to River Plate in Argentina after the talented midfielder looked like a fish out of water in MLS. Pochettino has shown well for River and if Austin FC are in a better place next year, the Argentine could still provide a huge spark if he returns or be sold in the offseason.
At the back the reshuffling of the backline has been critical in maintaining teams away from their net, although Austin FC’s Cinderella season could be put to the test when they play the Los Angeles Galaxy twice, LAFC on the road, Orlando City, and RSL. If Austin FC comes out of that run of games looking strong, then the club could be a serious threat the rest of the season.
MLS is a streaky league; a lot depends on how you do coming out of the gate and how you finish at the end. Few if any teams in MLS can truly be consistent the whole season, but if you are a Austin FC supporter and have seen the box scores as of late, and have seen a few come from behind performances you have to be liking the club’s chances as we enter the dog days of summer.
For now Austin FC is a big surprise, after a miserable start to their MLS existence, the club stuck to the plan, got the right pieces and are shutting their critics up. Even the biggest Austin FC supporter couldn’t have planned this back in February.