The first Austin FC season, with all of its bumps and bruises, is now in the rearview, along with 2021.
Expectations for the season varied wildly across the fan base, but not even the staunchest detractor can say the 27th MLS club’s inaugural season was not without its high points.
The lull of the MLS off-season leaves many restless Verde fans already nostalgic for the recent past. Head Coach Josh Wolff’s squad will not grace the pitch or our screens until February 26, when they host FC Cincinnati.
Until that glorious day, we decided to look back at the peaks of Austin’s first steps into the ever-growing beautiful game and rank our top five Austin FC goals for the season. Hopefully, 2022’s list will be much harder to compile.
5. Cecilio Domínguez vs Real Salt Lake -0 and Diego Fagúndez vs FC Dallas 5-
Our first entry is a tie for fifth place, as leaving out one of these two pieces of Sebastián Driussi-to-Diego Fagúndez-action would be simply unfair.
The Argentinian forward/attacking midfielder joined in the middle of the season from Zenit St. Petersburg and linked an adrift midfield to a misfiring front line to usher in some of Austin’s best offense. Both goals are a testament to the near-instant chemistry between the two Rioplatense players and our strong South American contingent on the pitch.
Cecilio Domínguez’s goal against Real Salt Lake makes this list entirely because of Driussi’s efforts; a beautiful curling cross finds Fagúndez on the right edge of the box, who calmly lays it off to an unmarked Domínguez for an open net tap-in.
Driussi’s pre-assist is 90% of this goal, so it only felt fair to include another incredible pass of his with an equally skilled finish to match. Austin fans may not remember this goal as fondly, as it came during the 5-3 thumping from FC Dallas.
The goal is worth revisiting — a disguised through ball from Driussi finds a darting Fagúndez alone behind the backline and one-on-one with the Dallas goalie. Fagúndez’s finish matched the finesse of the assist, a tight-angle chip over the encroaching keeper bounced into the net to shrink the titanic gap between Copa Tejas rivals.
4. Jon Gallagher vs Portland Timbers -0
Some of the goals within this list come from technical excellence or moments of individual brilliance. This goal makes it into the list almost solely on its sentimental value.
Make no mistake, the first Austin FC goal scored in Q2 stadium features some prime Wolffball: fluid movement, quick passes and a tidy finish tick all the boxes. Gallagher got his just reward for electric performances of the bench, giving Wolff a much-needed rotation option. What makes this goal worth remembering is what happens the second the ball bulges the net.
For the first time, Q2 erupted with screams of euphoria.
For the first time, the huddled embrace of the Austin FC players took place in front of eager Austinites uprooted from their seats.
For the first time, Verde fans were baptized in the deep green light and beer showers — the now sacred traditions of our home.
May it be the first of many.
3. Sebastián Driussi vs Houston Dynamo -0
From here on out, it’s only bangers.
Driussi’s been invaluable ever since his inclusion — so much so he’s made the list again, this time for his goal-scoring.
Watching all of Austin’s goals, you realize the team rarely finds success with medium-to-long-range efforts, Alex Ring being one of the few real threats from outside the box. Driussi gave defenders one more aspect of his game to fear with this goal.
Ring received the ball outside the box under pressure thanks to his aforementioned long-range shooting, turned and gave the ball to Driussi in space on the edge of the box. A quick ball roll away from the defender set Driussi up to forcefully tuck the ball low and away from an outstretched keeper and into the net. Banger.
2. Diego Fagúndez vs FC Dallas -0
Fagúndez’s second entry on this list is all him. Nothing but pure finesse and over a decade of MLS experience were behind this goal.
A miscommunication between two Dallas defenders left Fagúndez with ample time and space to shoot from the inner left edge of the box, and our talismanic young veteran didn’t disappoint. Some of Europe’s finest would be proud of such a finish.
The only nitpick with the goal is its stage; the Arjen Robben-esque finish was the only Austin goal in a 2-1 defeat between two (albeit rival) basement-dwelling sides. Wolff likely wants Fagúndez’s goals against Dallas to contribute to victories, but for now, we’ll treasure the show the Uruguayan puts on a week-to-week basis.
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1. McKinze Gaines vs LA Galaxy -0
The emotional impact of Gallagher’s goal meets the shocking brilliance which makes football/soccer so enthralling in our best goal of the season.
McKinze Gaines, Austin FC’s first Austin-born player and goalscorer, will suit up for MLS’ latest expansion team, Charlotte FC, in 2022. No bittersweet thoughts could spoil this screamer of a debut, however.
Already up 1-0 over one of MLS’ 10 founding clubs, the LA Galaxy, Gaines’ first touch after a Nick Lima cutback pass from the wing pinged the ball up into the air for the Austin native to bury into the net.
Despite wearing the white away kit while playing at Q2, there was nothing but Verde love cascading around Gaines. The crowd went bonkers. Even if the crowd wasn’t fully aware of the significance of the goal, the team certainly was — players on the pitch and warming up on the touchline enveloping the hometown hero.
No matter how long his career or his level of success at Charlotte, Gaines will always be the first Austin kid to live out the boyhood dream, even if the dream didn’t exist a year ago.
We likely won’t get another moment quite like this, barring some long-time Austin FC academy prospect scoring their debut goal — which is unlikely to happen for years. For a fan base and fans of sport in general, stories like Gaines are what keep us invested in a club, in a culture.
Truly, the best goal in a season of firsts.
What was your favorite Austin FC goal of 2021?