As I write this, Austin FC hasn’t won an MLS match in 59 days.
The absences of Sebastian Driussi and Diego Fagundez loom large as the Verde and Black slog through a month that includes 7 matches, 5 of which come against teams currently on track to make the playoffs.
It’s fairly easy to argue that this is the lowest point in Austin FC’s short history. In 2021, there was the valid excuse of being an expansion side, nobody expected much, and the joys of watching our new club were tremendous even as they languished near the bottom of the Western Conference.
However, even if this is a low point, if we’ve hit rock bottom, is this so bad?
For the record, I’m not arguing that it won’t get worse before it gets better, because it probably will. The aforementioned injury concerns amongst the meat grinder of a schedule Austin deals with this month doesn’t feel like a particularly pleasant atmosphere for a hot run of form.
Even with all of this, the squad has shown fight in the last couple of matches, and I believe that at some point this season, Austin FC will be back to the high-flying form of 2022.
If you sit back and reflect on this weekend’s match in Portland, Austin went on the road against a team they’re fighting with for a playoff spot without three starters, two of whom have been fundamental in the attack since the first season of this club’s existence. They fought back and secured a point with a beautiful 92nd minute header from our third string striker and potential new fan favorite Will Bruin.
Now, while it might not be the win we’re all looking for, Austin FC have shown the grit, toughness, and “never say die” mentality that made them so good last season. Even in a mediocre overall performance with some questionable goalkeeping by Brad Stuver, Austin did well enough to scrap a point from the affair.
I feel like the best development from these trying times is seeing emerging stars popping up in the absence of Driussi and Fagundez.
Owen Wolff has proved why he’s travelling with the USA U-20 squad for the World Cup in Argentina this summer, and why he’s had a starting spot in the midfield this season. He has shown moments of class in huge situations, such as a gorgeous assist for Will Bruin on Saturday and a thunderous strike against Real Salt Lake.
Emiliano Rigoni has finally found his form, bagging a goal and an assist in the past couple of matches. For the amount of times I’ve questioned why we bought him, and why he’s consistently started over Ethan Finlay, I’m overjoyed that he’s taken the opportunity of being the main man in attack the way he has, and hope that this form can continue long into the season.
Jon Gallagher is still smashing in goals. Julio Cascante looked impressive in his return from injury. Dani Pereira is covering the entire pitch and then some. The dancing bear himself Will Bruin has done enough to convince me that he should get a starting opportunity against New Mexico United on Wednesday.
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Now, think about the amount of opportunities Austin has to salvage this season.
U.S. Open Cup play starts this week. A win against New Mexico, even if an expected result, could be the thing to kickstart the season.
Leagues Cup begins this year, and Austin will have the opportunity to host both Mazatlan FC and FC Juarez at Q2 stadium in group stage play in late July.
Not to mention, despite all that’s happened, Austin is only two points outside of a playoff position, with 24 matches of league play remaining. As easy as it sounds to overreact, protest against Josh Wolff’s management, and proclaim that Austin FC’s 2023 campaign is a lost cause, there is still a whole lot of fight (and time) left in this team.
It’ll take some patience, from everyone involved with the club, but there’s too much quality in the squad for them to go out quietly.
Keep supporting the team as hard as possible, because they need it more than ever just about now.
The Verde and Black will be back at their best. It could be Wednesday, it could be in July, or it could be during the playoffs in October. But for now?
Never say die.
Cover photo courtesy Austin FC