The green smoke flows through the Austin sky; Austin FC’s attacking woes received a dash of hope with the announced arrival of Sebastián Driussi, the 25-year-old Argentinian footballer at a press conference on July 29.
The former Zenit St. Petersburg and River Plate player lands in Austin with a tall task in front of him — unlock one of the most log-jammed attacks in all of MLS and facilitate the free-flowing football Head Coach Josh Wolff’s struggled to implement, save for a few flashes here and there.
The football under Wolff is open up until a certain point, as proven by a bruising 1-0 loss to a very young Seattle Sounders side on July 22. While the midfield may struggle at times to surge forward and create chances of their own, the wide play’s over-delivered. An argument could be made the wide play shines because opponents know Austin lacks bite down the middle, but players like Žan Kolmanič and Cecilio Domínguez (who likely welcomes the arrival of a centrally-minded attacker) will ease Driussi’s creative burden.
At first glance, Driussi’s appealing qualities are readily apparent: persistent pressing, floating inbetween the lines to receive crosses and cutbacks from the wings — something he won’t lack in Austin FC’s system. He also appears comfortable drifting away from the center of the pitch toward the touchline, an area where Austin isn’t lacking talent, but the perks only add to his appeal.
Driussi’s allure is in his ability to get on the end of crosses in and thump in loose balls or rebounds in crowded boxes. He’s by no means a towering presence in the area, standing at 180 cm, or just under 5’11”, but he still manages to be where he needs to be and convert among the chaos.
He tracks back well and rarely relents when pressing, unafraid to make a clattering challenge on a midfielder loitering with the ball in their own half. That dynamism may be key to catalyze the an often sluggish or uninspired attack. Is Driussi a true number 9? A poacher’s poacher? No, but he immediately becomes Austin’s prime goal-scoring threat the minute he hits the pitch in black and verde wherever the club positions him.
Like any reasonable fan of a burgeoning club, expectations must be tempered.
Driussi’s goals mostly came from the 18/19 Russian Premier Liga campaign, where he netted 10 goals and seven assists in 27 appearances, averaging a goal contribution every 108.7 minutes. Since then, his production’s notably tapered, contributing a goal and three assists in the 16 games of the 20/21 RPL season he’s played so far.
What Austin needs is for their newest signing to replicate his form for River Plate in the 2017 Primera División, scoring 18 goals with 3 assists in 29 games. Statistically, it’s just as respectable as his most successful RPL season, a goal contribution every 103.8 minutes to the aforementioned 108.7, the difference being the much heavier lean toward goals.
How Druissi’s arrival changes the squad dynamics is likely to be Wolff’s biggest challenge.
Domínguez can move to his more natural position at left wing, livening up the competition on the flanks while also being able to switch seamlessly with Driussi mid-attack, as both tend to shade left when playing centrally.
Since Driussi will sit deeper, he lightens some of the creative duties of Diego Fagúndez and Tomás Pochettino, who have struggled to break games open when the opposition digs in their heels near their goal. This means more space for Alex Ring to ping balls in from behind to the wide players and more space for the midfielders ahead of him to manipulate. Said wide players can now run into the space created by buzzing Driussi on the edge of the area like true inside forwards or play off encroaching Austin midfielders making late runs.
Just one addition to the squad can simplify a stuttering game plan, should the best version of the Argentinian take the pitch.
Of course, he is not the perfect solution for every offensive woe the squad faces. As was readily apparent when trailing to Seattle on June 22, the team tends to simplify their game when in desperate need of goals — lofted crosses rain into a crowded box, begging for an aerially dominant striker to head them past the goalkeeper. Driussi is not a “desperation time” header-winner nor is he electrifying in his finishing like the upper echelon of forwards. Wolff likely isn’t asking Driussi to be Austin’s Sergio Agüero. he doesn’t need to be — all he needs to do is get goals, and get them soon.
Either way, the relative efficiency of this move should excite fans.
Rumors linking Driussi appeared mere days ago and he appeared in the shirt before the end of the month. The stark contrast between this move and Moussa Djitté’s, who signed in late June and has yet to even take the pitch in MLS, is apparent. Keeping business tidy minimizes off-pitch drama to a minimum, leaving the new signings in the spotlight, hopefully, to score goals.