Austin FC roster updates and player rumors for 2023 season

Austin FC’s sophomore MLS campaign was a triumph.

Now it’s time to talk offseason roster news and rumors as we approach the 2023 Major League Soccer regular season—set to begin February 25th against St. Louis City SC.

The Verde & Black added key pieces this time last year when they signed Ruben Gabrielsen, Maxi Urruti, and Ethan Finlay to help propel them to the playoffs in 2022.

For 2023, Claudio Reyna and Josh Wolff must fine-tune key positions in the coming months to reach MLS Cup in year three.

Here’s the latest roster news heading into the 2023 MLS season.

2023 Austin FC Preseason Player Transactions

  • Diego Fagundez (midfielder) signs a new three-year guaranteed contract through the end of the 2025 season, with an option for 2026.
  • Jhohan Romaña (defender) loaned to Club Olimpia of Paraguay’s Primera División. The Colombian center back joins Olimpia on a season-long loan through the end of the 2023. This move frees up a senior roster spot for the club.
  • Will Bruin (forward) signed a one-year guaranteed contract, with an option for 2024. The free agent spent six season with Seattle Sounders where he tallied 30 goals and 15 assists.
  • Moussa Djitté (forward) loaned to Ligue 1 side AC Ajaccio until June 30, 2023. This move frees up a senior roster spot for the club.
  • Amro Tarek (defender) signs a one-year contract through 2023, with an option for 2024. The MLS veteran center back occupies a senior roster spot.
  • Adam Lundkvist (defender) transfers from Houston Dynamo in exchange for $300,000 in 2023 GAM and $200,000 in 2024 GAM. Lundkvist holds a Green Card and therefore will not occupy an International spot.
  • Tomás Pochettino (midfielder) transfers to Brazilian side Fortaleza Esporte Clube through Dec. 2025. Austin FC retains 20% of the player’s rights.
  • Ruben Gabrielsen (defender) transfers to Lillestrom SK, where he played from 2009-2014, for an undisclosed amount.
  • Leo Väisänen (defender) transfers from IF Elfsborg, who signed for four guaranteed years through the 2026 season, with an option for 2027. The 25-year-old Finnish center back will occupy a Senior International spot on the roster.
  • Matt Bersano (goalkeeper) signs a two-year contract through 2024, with an option for 2025. The 30-year-old free agent occupies a senior roster spot and will back up Stuver in place of Tarbell.
  • Gyasi Zardes (forward) signs for three guaranteed years with an option for 2026. The 31-year-old MLS veteran will occupy a non-DP spot on the senior roster.
  • Hector Jimenez (midfielder) rejoins the club on a one-year guaranteed deal, with an option for the 2024 season. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Jimenez had guaranteed compensation of $200,000 in 2022.
  • Brad Stuver (goalkeeper) signs a new three-year guaranteed contract through the end of the 2025 season, with an option for 2026. Financial terms were not disclosed, but likely significantly above his $175,000 prior base salary.
  • Alfonso Ocampo-Chávez (forward) claimed off the MLS End-of-Year Waivers list. The 20-year-old from California spent three years in the Seattle Sounders organization, last playing for MLS NEXT Pro affiliate Tacoma Defiance.
  • Sofiane Djeffal (midfielder) was the club’s first pick of the 2022 MLS Re-Entry Draft Stage 1. Austin acquired the first pick via a trade with DC United for $50,000 GAM. The 23-year-old native of France will occupy Supplemental and International roster designations.
  • Jon Gallagher (defender) got new lease on life at Austin FC when he moved to left back from left winger last season. The club signed him to a new contract through the end of the 2026, with an option for the 2027 season.
  • Washington Corozo (winger) did not have his loan option exercised. He returns to parent club Sporting Cristal in Peru.
  • Hector Jimenez’s (defender) contract ended in 2022 and was not re-signed.
  • Danny Hoesen (forward), Freddy Kleemann (defender), Felipe Martins (midfielder), Will Pulisic (goalkeeper), and Andrew Tarbell (goalkeeper) had their contract options declined for 2023. Any of these players can have their contracts re-negotiated to stay with the club.
  • Brad Stuver (goalkeeper) and Charlie Asensio (defender) had their contract options exercised for 2023.
  • Jared Stroud (midfielder) traded to expansion club St. Louis CITY SC for $100,000 GAM. Stroud had signed a one-year contract last offseason to stay in Austin.

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2023 Austin FC Player Transfer Rumors

Looking for 2023 Austin FC rumors? You’re in the right spot for offseason player movements.

Sebastián Pineau / Alianza Lima

Transfer: Incoming Position: Striker   Age: 20     Transfer Fee: $100K (est.)

Austin FC is making late preseason moves to acquire U-20 Peruvian striker Sebastián Pineau of Alianza Lima. Possibly bolstering Gyasi Zardes, Maxi Urruti, and Moussa Djitte up top, Wolff could be looking for an insurance policy in a long, 45+ game season this year—when you factor in three tournaments in 2023. It is rumored to be a 3-year deal through the end of 2025. Given his age and low transfer fee, we wonder if this is actually an Austin FC II pickup. In any case, we’ll be closely following Peruvian fútbol journalist Jose Varela for the latest on the rumor.

UPDATE: Austin FC II signed Sébastien Pineau on February 23.

Hasan Kurucay / HamKam

Transfer: Incoming Position: Center Back    Age: 25     Transfer Fee: $1M (est.)

Austin FC may finally be bolstering its defense ahead of the 2023 season. Reports out of Norway link Turkish center back Hasan Kurucay to Austin. The 25-year-old defender’s contract expires with Norwegian side HamKam on Dec 31, 2022.

Ruben Gabrielsen / Austin FC

Transfer: Outgoing Position: Center Back    Age: 30     Transfer Fee: $800K (est.)

Oslo-based sports writer Stian André de Wahl has it on good authority that Lillestrøm SK is offering Ruben Gabrielsen a contract to bring him back home to Norway. If you remember from our original writeup of Ruben back in Jan. 2022, the 30-year-old center back played for the Norwegian club from 2009-2014. At his age, it wouldn’t surprise us if he’s looking to get back to his family on a long term agreement to finish his career.

With that said, Austin FC has a deal with the Norwegian Minister of Defense through December 2023 and likely wouldn’t give up their star defender without a fight. ATX would likely have to agree to release Garbielsen from his contract. It also may explain recent rumors surrounding Finnish center back Leo Väisänen (more on him below).

UPDATE: Lillestrøm SK signed Ruben Gabrielsen on January 5.

Cheick Toure / Free Agent (last with PSV Eindhoven) 

Transfer: Incoming Position: Left Winger    Age: 21     Transfer Fee: $250K (est.)

Austin FC may be adding more attacking depth for 2023 if the news from Chris Smith of 90MIN is true. Dutch winger Cheick Toure has tallied 26 goals and 14 assists in 140 games for PSV Eindhoven’s reserve team, Jong PSV, and at the youth levels for Rotterdam-based Feyenoord. Besides playing left and right wing, the 21-year-old has also made appearances at fullback—think Jon Gallagher.

Given his lack of experience at the top level, young Cheick could find playing time first with new team Austin FC II. Stay tuned, the transfer is expected to be officially announced around the Christmas holiday.

UPDATE: Austin FC II signed Check Toure on January 5.

Leo Väisänen / IF Elfsborg

Transfer: Incoming Position: Center Back    Age: 25     Transfer Fee: $1.8M (est.)

If the name Leo Väisänen sounds familiar, it’s because he was on our rumor roundup last offseason. We thought this talk was dead and buried after Ruben Gabrielsen (Toulouse FC) was signed at center back. Well, Leo is linked again to Austin FC for 2023, and we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t repost it.

This rumor from Swedish sports podcast Studi Allsvenskan (in a tweet dated Dec. 14) has all the makings of a certified Verde smoke signal. Age. Check. Position. Check. Transfer Fee. Check. Finnish. Check. Check. Like another notable player positioned down the spine of Austin FC, team captain Alex Ring, Leo is from Finland. No worries about communication between center back and center mid. In 2020, Väisänen joined IF Elfsborg, in Sweden’s top-tier football league, from Dutch side FC Den Bosch. Elfsborg re-signed Leo Väisänen through 2024, according to an Instagram post from the club on Dec. 31.

UPDATE: Austin FC signed Leo Väisänen on January 4.

Gyasi Zardes / Colorado Rapids

Transfer: Incoming Position: Striker Age: 31 Transfer Fee: $1M est.

Austin FC are in talks with free-agent forward Gyasi Zardes, per Zardes, 31, would reunite with head coach Josh Wolff. They worked together during their time with the Columbus Crew and the US men’s national team.

UPDATE: Austin FC signed Gyasi Zardes on December 12.

Owen Wolff / Austin FC

Transfer: Outgoing Position: Midfielder Age: 17 Transfer Fee: Unknown

We’re not so sure we like Austin FC’s recent partnership with PSV Eindhoven anymore. The famed Dutch club appears to be perfectly positioned to cherry-pick the Verdes’ top young talent. Case in point, according to PSV insider Rik Elfrink, a transfer for talented young midfielder Owen Wolff could happen as soon as this winter. The 17-year-old homegrown was a solid contributor in 2022 with 24 appearances/11 starts in the central midfield. Rest assured Verde fans, it would have to be a perfect fit for father Wolff to relinquish his son overseas.

Sebastián Driussi / Austin FC

Transfer: Outgoing Position: Forward Age: 26 Transfer Fee: $10-15M est.

We here at CCS are used to the player transfers going in one direction—into Austin. But after a spectacular year two, Argentine forward Sebastián Driussi is getting big-time interest from across the pond apparently. CBS Sports Golazo! Show host Nico Cantor tweeted that Leeds United and two other EPL clubs are interested in acquiring Driussi. Something’s got to give this offseason. Austin FC either cashes in and agrees to a transfer or the Verdes offer Driussi a new multi-year contract that significantly boosts his current $2.2 million annual salary.

UPDATE: Austin FC extended Sebastián Driussi’s contract to the end of the 2025 season, on February 14.

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