Result aside, how awesome was that?
Perhaps it’s true that I spent almost ten minutes coming up with that as an opener. Just like perhaps it’s true that a goalless draw in your home opener isn’t the best way to start. However, perhaps, for Austin FC on Saturday night, it was bigger than the result.
On Saturday night, we saw the fruit of the labor of love that was thousands of hours of work, millions of dollars of money, and countless years of waiting for professional soccer in Austin— we saw OUR team.
Austin FC may not have opened the new stadium in a five-goal scoresheet destroyer (though at times it felt like it may turn into that), but they avoided the loss, and man, was that atmosphere special.
Congratulations, Austin FC players, staff, and fans — we “brought Austin to soccer,” and it was beautiful.
But as always, there was actual football to be played on that brand new pitch, so let’s look at some of the takeaways.
The offense has definite potential
Most of this Austin’s teams struggles on the offensive end of the pitch come from a few simple factors — chemistry, time spent playing together, and a lack of a functional No. 9 (more on that later) rank among the chief causes.
Last night was another example of a lackluster offensive performance — but there was definitely something different about it. The team was inches away from scoring on so many occasions, from Diego Fagundez nearly scoring a chip-style header (okay, it was his shoulder, so what?), to Josh Stroud’s vicious shot from distance, and the multiple scoring opportunities created by the pace and technique of Jon Gallagher, Austin looked a far more formidable force at home.
That type of improvement is exactly what they needed.
Despite the lack of a true No. 9, last night’s performance showed that Austin FC’s offense certainly has potential, especially once the chemistry starts to click in Josh Wolf’s possession-heavy offensive style.
I’m still looking for this side to find it’s final gear, but last night’s team sure looked night and day different from the past few weeks at times, with marauding runs from the wings, and crisp passing in the middle showcasing at certain points.
Brad Stuver is the best goalkeeper in MLS this season
Stuver, the Cleveland, Ohio native, in his first career chance as a team’s No. 1 between the posts, is making quite the impression— and I don’t think this subheading is taking it too far.
They say goalkeepers peak later in their careers, and Stuver is certainly proving that analysis to be true. With what is sure to be yet another week where we see Stuver as the Capital City Soccer Man of the Match, his legend continues to grow in the city of Austin, right alongside the team’s. He got a lot of much-warranted, and long-awaited applauds and respect from the Supporter’s Section last night.
Now the MLS saves leader (as of the end of Saturday’s match), he’s also got a podium spot for saving shots on his goal, at 83.9%. Add to that a pass completion percentage of 80.2%, and you’ve got a bona fide elite MLS goaltender.
And elite is just what Austin has needed during the toughest season-opening stretch in the MLS in my personal memory, and one could argue that Brad Stuver has been the only thing that has kept Austin FC from a nightmare scenario to start off its existence as an MLS franchise.
If one thing is for sure about the newly-minted Austin FC goals, it’s that Brad Stuver could very well be their last line of defense for a long time.
This team needs a true No. 9
However good your goaltender is, eventually you’ve got to score some goals to get the results you want.
Austin’s main problem comes from a lack of a dynamic scoring threat. Sure, the likes of Tomás Pochettino, Diego Fagúndez and Cecilio Domínguez are going to create plenty of opportunities, but without someone to bag the goals, many of those opportunities go to waste.
The truth is, the Live Oaks need a striker. You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. It’s easy to see. There is plenty of creative talent on this roster, from the Designated Players to the substitutes, chances can be created.
The real question isn’t if, but how much money Anthony Precourt and friends will spend during the summer transfer window when it opens July 7th. Imagining this team rounding into form, and adding a backup in the midfield and a true No. 9 is a tantalizing thought.
If Austin FC do elect to bring in some talent at that position, it could be as simple as bringing someone in to challenge for the role against Danny Hoesen, who has been almost invisible at times this season. Whether that player would come domestically, or internationally, remains to be seen.
Hello, 3rd Designated Player?
Austin is a soccer city
Austin, this ones for you.
You kept it weird. You kept it real. You showed who we are, and what we’re all about. You absolutely killed it.
The town that was once the Longhorn city that “would never support a professional sports team,” now has one of the most up and coming franchises in America’s fastest growing sport. The dream, the campaign, and the passion all have now paid off with our team’s first home game. The legend of the city will only continue to grow as Q2 plays host to numerous other events, including the Gold Cup later this summer.
The Tifo game was top class, the chants and songs were recognized nationally, and overall, whatever the result would have been, the operation was a total success. From local taste to national and international flavor, Q2 stadium has it all, just as it should be.
With a revolutionary style of pitch and unique stadium with its own specially designed airflow system, the stadium couldn’t be more unique, and It couldn’t be more Austin.
After a short week back on the road, we’ve got another point to make on the 27th.