Power Ranking: 21
Last result: 2-0 loss against LAFC
I… I don’t really know what to do here.
Usually, I fall into a routine for these sorts of things. I check mlssoccer.com and do some googling and come up with a pretty good idea of the team we’re about to face. I look at last year, or the season so far, and try to discuss trends. Austin FC, the newcomers to MLS in 2021, don’t have any of that to examine. They weren’t a former USL team where we could talk about their performance in a lower league. They aren’t a rebranded team that came from somewhere else where you could just look at their former identity. They’re brand new, with a largely new team.
Well, I guess that isn’t strictly true. The owner of Austin isn’t new to MLS. Anthony Precourt, who will forever carry a black mark on his name for unceremoniously threatening to move the Columbus Crew, essentially got his new Austin franchise after selling the Crew. The popular #SaveTheCrew campaign might or might not have had an effect, but nonetheless, the Crew safely got out of Precourt’s grasp, and have actually thrived away from his hand. Their success is evident with them winning the MLS Cup last year.
So instead of the usual, let me instead try and talk about Austin in a different manner.
They’ve played one game so far, against a partially depleted LAFC. They lost 2-0, even after LAFC had an injury/miscommunication that saw Carlos Vela subbed off after the 22nd minute. Their keeper Brad Stuver was quoted as saying they felt like they could have gotten points out of the game - though personally having watched the entire game I think that gives Austin a little bit too much credit.
MLS put Austin at 21st in its Power Rankings before the season started, with the Rapids at 14. They got punted to 25th following their loss, while we stayed at 14. After watching their debut game, I can say that they don’t seem like a terrible team but they didn’t look all that impressive either. Yes, it was against LAFC, but they were basically without Carlos Vela for the entire game, and several of LA’s big guns were absent.
The coach for Austin at the start of their inaugural season is Josh Wolff. Wolff is most famous for being a player in the late 90s and early 2000s with Chicago Fire, the Kansas City Wizards (now better known as Sporting KC), and lastly with DC United. As a coach, he’s been an assistant for DC United, Columbus, and lastly with the US senior national team. Austin is going to be his first shot at being the head coach, and with a plethora of MLS experience, it will be a good opportunity for him to show the league what both he and the team are capable of.
Their two DPs are Tomás Pochettino and Cecilio Domínguez. Pochettino is a 25-year-old Argentinian who was last with Club Atlético Talleres, while Domínguez is a Paraguayan who has seen call-ups with their national team, and was last with Club Atlético Independiente, also in Argentina. Another big name for them is Alexander Ring, who made an impressive 113 appearances for NYCFC since 2017 and has been given the captain’s armband - which he previously held at his former club. Acquiring Ring might cost Austin upwards of $1.25 million in GAM, making him potentially the biggest allocation ever for a non-US national team player in MLS history. Expectations are high from the three of them.
The rest of Austin’s roster is kind of what you would expect to see from an expansion team. They signed a lot of free agents, a few from the expansion draft, made a lot of in-league trades, made some SuperDraft signings (including the #1 overall pick, forward Daniel Pereira). Overall, their roster is maybe best described as “a bit from here, a bit from there, a bit from everywhere.” It isn’t like they are riding on the profile of their owner ala Inter Miami last year. Nor are they coming in like Atlanta did, where they loudly announced their intent to aggressively pursue trophies.
Like I said, I watched their debut match. In short, I feel like it was nothing special. They had a few good moments, but overall they definitely were the lesser team. It would have taken a lot more from the team to get a point, much less three.
To me, though, none of that really matters. The big difference for us is that this is going to be the first time fans will be able to see the Rapids in person for well over a year. After being safe and not allowing any fans in the stadiums after the initial postponement, the Rapids have gotten approval to have nearly 8,000 fans in the stadium. Heck, given the Altitude-Comcast debacle, this might be the first time fans have seen the Rapids play period in over a year.
The Rapids might not have gotten a win or a goal against Dallas, but those two statements alone give a bad impression of that game. For one, Dallas is a very good team defensively, and two, the Rapids still looked very good for most of the game. Personally, I’m feeling a bit of magic is coming this weekend. Fans back in the stadium, supporting a team that looks good, against an expansion team that doesn’t. There’s no reason to not be confident that we’ll get three points on Saturday. Better yet, we’ll be back in person, and we all know nothing beats watching the Rapids in person. Let’s go!