How much experience do Austin FC players have in a competition like CONCACAF Champions League?
Let’s find out!
Yesterday we broke down the context of our federation’s “continental” club tournament, the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). This will be Austin FC’s first time qualifying for the tournament (in just our 2nd year), but I was curious to see how much experience we have on our roster when it comes to this and other international club competitions.
Each federation has at least one tournament that is equivalent to our CCL, but Europe and South America have such insatiable appetites for football that they have two tiers of continental tourneys.
In Europe, they have the UEFA Champions League (the most lucrative tournament on the planet), and the Europa League beneath it. In South America, they have Copa Libertadores for the best teams, and Copa Sudamericana beneath it.
And it turns out, that when you do a deep dive into the stats, Austin FC’s players have experience in all of these continental tournaments, and CONCACAF Champions League too.
Let’s start with the biggest one first.
Unsurprisingly, both captains in our short history have both played in, and scored, in the UEFA Champions League. Alex Ring has two games and one goal. Sebastián Driussi, on the other hand, has a continental resume that dwarfs everyone else’s, with 62 appearances and 8 goals between UEFA and Libertadores.
Driussi even helped River Plate win the whole shabang in 2015’s Copa Libertadores! (He did so after winning Sudamericana with them the previous year.)
This led to his Argentine squad representing their continent in the FIFA Club World Cup, where Driussi even played against the likes of Barcelona, only to be outclassed by another famous Argentine…none other than Lionel Messi himself.
Speaking of the second most prestigious continental Copa on the planet, the Verde and Black have two other players with experience in it: both Maxi Urruti and Emi Rigoni having played in Libertadores (Rigoni scored in it 4 times).
In today’s press conference, Urruti said the main difference between CCL and Libertadores is that you often face some really strong teams early in the tournament, but he’s seen that each year the level of competition is growing in the CCL.
CCL Player Experience
It turns out that Austin FC’s players have 49 match appearances in the CONCACAF club tourney (not counting Julio Cascante’s 5 since he’s out injured). And our guys have even scored 9 goals in the CCL during their careers, led by Urruti’s 5 and Zardez’s 3.
When asked, Maxi said this goal was his favorite goal ever in the tournament; I really hope he has something even more spectacular in store for the Verde faithful, so that he becomes less remembered for what he did in an FC Frisco uniform.
But Will Bruin, even though he’s only had 1 goal, has the highest honors in the CCL, with 14 games under his belt and one CCL Championship with the Seattle Sounders last year!
Alex Ring and Hector Jimenez round out our list of veterans with CONCACAF experience, with 2 and 8 matches, respectively.
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Now if we look beyond the players on the field, Austin FC has even more experience to draw from: El Profesor, Coach Wolff himself, played in 5 CONCACAF Champions Cup matches, and he even scored once (though it should be noted, the tournament was pretty different way back then).
One thing that hasn’t changed is that of all the Champions League-style tournaments there are, CONCACAF is particularly “special” in the words of Coach Wolff. He described it as, “a grind…It’s a dogfight no matter where you go. Our guys have to understand the intensity that’s gonna be required.”
When asked specifically what makes CCL unique, Josh Wolff mentioned “antics going on in the locker room—nothing was very private” and “things being thrown at you, things being said to you, and fans in your space.” He called out Costa Rica’s Saprissa for being the most hostile, but Wolff chalked it all up to being “part of the gamesmanship in our [CONCACAF] region.”
The biggest surprise I found when looking into these stats is that we have 3 veteran players with zero continental experience—Lima, Fagundez, and Finlay—which shows just how special it is for the players to earn the right to play in these types of tournaments. I bet they’re really excited to finally get to compete for this kind of trophy!
Overall, the Verde crew is coming into Tuesday’s match versus Violette AC with 162 matches of experience in continental club competitions, having scored 29 goals (Rigoni and Driussi make up 18 of this total).
So it’s safe for the Verde supporters to have expectations that our squad has enough experience to be up for the challenge.
It’s also safe to say that the Verde squad will savor this opportunity to prove themselves on an international stage, and do their best to spread the legend of Austin FC across the globe, because they know how scarce these types of games can be.
I hope our young fanbase, who probably have very little experience attending these types of matches, will now see how rare they are, and value this opportunity as much as our players surely do.
We’re going to be in for a wild ride the next two Tuesday nights (more on that in my final CCL installment tomorrow), and I hope the ride keeps going on weeknights all Spring long.