Austin FC earned its first win in history away to the Colorado Rapids on April 24. An early header from Andre Shinyashiki off a corner in the 36th minute soured the first half, but a motivated Verdes side responded with energy and plenty of goals in kind.
Diego Fagúndez wrote his name in the record books after a pass across the face of goal fell to his feet less than a yard away from the open left side of the net, tapping in the first goal for the club in the 60th minute. Cecilio Domínguez added two quick-fire goals in the 67th and 71st minute to seal the game and secure the first franchise win.
Head Coach Josh Wolff and forward Cecilio Domínguez spoke in the post-match press conference on several aspects of Austin FC’s first win, including midfield play, Ben Sweat’s injury, fan support, and goal-scoring, of course.
Head Coach Josh Wolff
On what he said to the players at halftime and what he liked about the second half:
“Well, I think what I like most in the second half was was our intensity, our desire our energy, and just the willingness – the willingness to compete, the willingness to run. I think that energy became contagious around the field. At halftime, we talked about a few structural things, and again our guys, they started well.
“We hit a little bit of a wall which happens here in Colorado when you’re playing in a little bit of altitude, and we flattened out in the remainder of the first half, but we made a few adjustments and talked about some positional things that we needed to get better. But it was mostly about moving, playing with each other, making space, creating angles, constantly figur[ing] out how we can progress attacks, get behind the line and get in front of goal.
“I think right away that the attitude, the demeanor, the mentality they showed the second half is much, much better. And most of that was driven by Cecilio [Domínguez]. He came in and really gave a good impact to kick off the second half, and that bled into everybody. Alex [Ring], [Daniel] Pereira, all of them. And once we had a bit of momentum, I think it was clear as to what we were capable of doing, and a lot of credit goes to players. They work their backsides off and got everything they deserve.”
On the effect of getting Alex Ring and Diego Fagúndez more involved in the midfield:
“That’s exactly right – It was getting some more numbers in the middle. Having Alex and [Daniel] Pereira little more central, getting [Pereira] to come down a little bit and bring Cecilio inside, off the line, getting them in a pocket. Diego was always gonna have the ability to pop out wide or lower, but I wanted him to stay in between lines also just to now have some numbers centrally to attract the opponent up, and then now use [Žan] Kolmanič and our strikers to look to get behind the line. I think we started to do that, and again, that became certainly a driving force for us in the first 10 minutes.
“We got some shots are dozens of pieces, and from there, the energy picked up. I think Julio [Cascante] and Jhohan [Romaña] did a much better job in the second half navigating the first line of pressure where we struggled with tempo, and decision making and execution. I think Julio did a much better job in the second half. We all hung in there. It was difficult, but great collective effort. These guys, they grinded, they [weathered?] a little bit of the service in difficult moments. I think we saw a lot of character, and I’m proud of the guys.”
On getting his first win as head coach:
“I’m excited for the team. Obviously, it’s a momentous occasion for the city, for this organization. You know, I said it in a [pregame meeting], “We’re gonna fight together. We’re gonna suffer together, and we’re gonna win together. And we were coming out of here with points.” And I wanted them to put that in their head right away because that’s what we’re gonna do. And we did all those things. It feels good certainly as a coach, but I know how our staff works and how hard these players work, and moments of games are up and down, but they grinded. They fought through it.
“A lot of good feelings right now. It’s one game, but it’s exciting. First one for this club, first goals for this club, so a lot of perks. We’ll continue those throughout the year but really excited […]. Staff, players, fans – the fans were awesome, awesome. Huge throng of people in the corner down where we’re scoring goals. I think the guys enjoy that. They show their love at the end of the game really well. Great, great moment.”
How Cecilio Domínguez played differently against Colorado than LAFC and Tomás’ absence:
“We’ve used [Domínguez] in a few different spots throughout preseason and getting to know him, but he’s a guy that can play out wide and be isolated one [on] one. but I wanted him inside. Against LAFC, there was a little bit of fear for me because of Vela. I didn’t want Ben Sweat getting forward too much with the Cecilio in the pocket thus leaving ourselves exposed, similar to [Michael] Barrios today, and they have the transition guys on the right side. So, in the second half, I told Cecilio to get down, and get in the pocket, get between lines, and that’s where he’s at as best. He can play in between lines, he can play out wide, and he’s got great awareness in and around goal. And I think that’s exactly what you saw today.
“So, from that standpoint, we got exactly what we’d hoped we could get out of the Cecilio. In the first half, [we] weren’t able to find one in areas out wide-left to be effective. So, [we] asked Danny [Hoesen] to come a little bit lower, now make a little bit of space for Cecilio, and did a great job. And our players did a good job finding him and again, that that brought him into the game in a good way.
“Regarding [Tomás Pochettino], there’s not much to say. We were made aware of potential league-related administrative issues. And while the league believes there’s no real issue, they requested that we had him removed from starting lineup out of an abundance of caution, and that’s what we’ve did. There’s not much else we can do at the moment or much else we can say, we’ll just have to play it out and obviously, hopefully, receive a resolution shortly.”
On Ben Sweat’s apparent injury and the change in pace after the first 45 minutes:
“Yeah, we’ll have to see obviously, what the images show. But he’s a tough kid, so, he’s obviously got something going on in there, and we’ll just wait to see what it looks like.
“But the first half I thought started well, again, first 15-20 minutes, not bad. A couple transition moments, and again, we hit a little bit of a wall. and then we had a difficult time getting back up to the speed of the game. We didn’t play, we stopped moving, and when I talked to our guys about it, our game is about having offensive organization, getting our shapes so that we can have connections, and having the fluidity and mobility, and I think that started to come in the second half.
“Still lots to work on, still lots of work on, but I think that came to life more in the second half and that was reflected in how we were able to turn the game.”
Thanking media and the fans for their support:
“Well, I appreciate it. And obviously, thanks for the support. Thanks for being there. And yeah, I think this hopefully, is an indication of what we can be. We have a lot to work on but our guys put a lot into that game, certainly in the second half, and they were rewarded for it. And hopefully, the fans appreciate that, again, can’t say enough about their contributions before the game, during the game and after the game, and that support is talked about, is well recognized.
“Our guys love the fans, the community and then that’s one thing that’s been there from the moment these guys are their foot in Austin. We’re really proud of that, and that connection is important. So thanks for the support. Thanks for being there.”
On keeping the aggressive play up after the first goal, and what goals do for the team:
“Yeah, I think that’s typical in most sports. For me it’s something I tell these guys, you want to ruthlessness about it. you want to score goals, and I don’t care that it’s 3-1. I want to us to keep pushing and driving. I want it to go 4-1, 5-1, I think there’s just a mentality that we’re trying to create. It’s our second game ever, and [we] play the games to win games, but we want to play a certain way. We want to have a certain way that we go about competing and with the intensity, [the] ideas that we play with. so to get one I think the momentum really picked up and our guys responded in a good way.
“Second one came, third one came, and we could have had a fourth and a fifth, to be honest. The mentality is that we need to keep pushing. We need to score goals. We need to keep creating goals and along the way to have some balance. For sure, that’s one of the things that we want this club to be about.
“They’re learning about what it takes to play the way that we want to play, the amount of energy, the amount of intensity that it requires. Goals give you energy, and that’s what I tell them. Goals will give you energy, that’ll give you the fuel to keep going, and when we get that, we have to keep going. And it’s driving the game, driving the tempo, playing with a certain speed. And again, I think that’s something that we will continue to push. And we hope that becomes a hallmark of who we are as an organization, as a team.”
On Stroud’s contributions to the game:
“Yeah, Stroud’s awesome. Stroud is just that; He brings energy. He brings intensity. He’s so tenacious. His pressing is playing that pressing game with the opponent. He’s fantastic. And then his verticality, again, I think the first half we had a few nice movements down the right side where we’re able to get behind the line and get some crosses. [But] the second half again, he brings that tempo, he helps drive us on the first goal. And that gets things going. But he’s tireless, unapologetically, he competes with, with his teammates, with the opponent, which is great, because again, that becomes infectious. We have to compete, there is a level of physicality, and he’s somebody that’s there every day, certainly bringing that in training and games. Lot of credit, he helped get us going in the right directions.”
More on Pochettino’s absence:
“Yeah, he was on the plane, and as we said before, there were some administrative things. We were told to hold, and that’s kind of how it was presented. We move on. We got our guys ready to compete and play. Again, I think the focus is on what the team did today. This club achieved their first win ever and scored some goals, as well. We’ll address those things as we know more. But I think, a lot of what was done today was out of an abundance of caution, and hopefully, we’ll figure out [where] things lie going forward.”
Forward Cecilio Domínguez
Cecilio’s responses translated from Spanish by Ricardo Delgado (comments in italics to clarify).
How much did the fans and their support, their noise help in the match?:
“[The fans surprised me when I saw them on social media at first. I thought because we are a new team, we would not have that much support, but our fans acted really well. I think them being in the stadium gives us more air (wind in our sails is a close idiom to what he means), more energy. I’m really grateful to all the people who came out, and we hope it’ll always be that way (the fans showing out).]”
How Cecilio feels about scoring his first brace in years:
“[Really happy, primarily with the victory. I think for us, all the people in Austin, it’s a historic day, the first victory. Very happy with the two goals which, obviously helped the team win this and bring some joy. It’s really emotional. I hadn’t felt joy like this in a while. Sadly, COVID-19 kept a lot of us off the pitch, but today we got to be on the pitch. So, we’re really happy about that and really happy for the team, who gave it their all. We go home very happy.]”
On what changed to flip the result:
“[Well, I think Josh Wolff knows a lot (about the game), and he saw a lot of space in the middle, he told me in the second half — and the first half too, but it was more complicated then. I think it worked out better for us in the second half. I got into the middle more, I had a lot of space. I could put in through balls. I think that’s important, breaking the opponent’s line. Luckily, we could take advantage of all the opportunities we got.]”
On what crossed his mind after scoring his goals and how he’ll prepare for the next game:
“[Really, a lot of things went through my mind. I think it was a moment of euphoria but also time seems to stop, and I thought of all the things going on with the club. First of all, it gives me immense pride to wear this jersey, doubly so for scoring the goals. A lot of things went through my mind, joyous events and sad ones. Seeing my teammates happy, getting together with them, embracing with them. We hoped for this victory a lot, the first game didn’t work out, but today we were able to give ourselves this joy.
“[A movie went through my mind, just really emotional. Like I just said, I hadn’t felt this for a while. I think it’s good for each of us to compete in or win these games, celebrating with the teammate that’s beside you every day, through the good and the bad. I think we’re all forming a family like we recently said all together in the dressing room. Really happy for everyone, for the fans that came, give them some joy. I take away the smile and the joy that we all had when we scored, when we finished the game, in the locker room. It’s really something beautiful.]”
How did Ben Sweat’s apparent injury affect the team, and how did they bounce back from it?:
“[His injury struck us all. I felt really sad for him. Happened to a really great player and a great person who helped us a lot, more on my part, to make us work off each other. I think we had to focus on the game. In the last game, as well as today’s and the next, we have depth that gives results, who are at a similar level to the starting eleven. We knew a great player was coming off, but that another one focused on playing and winning was coming on, so we continued with the game. Each one of us knew our jobs. In the first half, things weren’t going our way, but they did in the second half, it was apparent then.]”
What the conversations were like to keep confidence high?:
“[Like I said, Josh knows a lot and believes in us a lot. We had a good talk at the end of the first half, many things were not going our way. But we knew, we are aware of each others’ abilities, and that we couldn’t show them on the pitch. Afterward, we spoke with each other, we talked about details that make a big difference, and in the second half, we were able to fix it. It was evident at the end of the game. We were able to turn it around and finished how we did].”
What drove them to fight back and keep going after scoring the first goal?:
“I think it was a little bit of everything. I just spoke about Josh’s talk, we adjusted some of the details. The first goal they scored hurt us, the game we were playing. I think it touched all of us, hurt us. When the best is gotten out of us, then we get what we saw today. I think we entered the second half with intensity, purpose and good football. I think we completely dominated the second half, but we still have a long ways to go, to improve. But we’re happy we were able to pull ahead.”