Whoa…Diego, yes our Diego, is Verde no more

If you’re an Austin FC fan, chances are that this will be one of those, “where were you when” kind of days.

At about 1:21pm CST, The Athletic reported that Austin FC would be trading its legendary winger to LA Galaxy for Memo Rodriguez and a minimum of $300,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM), with a potential of up to $900,000 in GAM.

As expected, the chats were on fire almost immediately:


And those are just the safe-for-work responses. 

Needless to say, this is a tough day for Diego, his family, and Austin FC fans. Here are five quick thoughts on the move:

Shock to the system
Let me just start by saying that I’m still in the ‘Shock’ phase of SARAH and will likely be here for a little bit of time. To be clear, it’s tough to call a player a ‘legend’ after two-and-a-half seasons, but Diego was the closest thing we have to one. To put it bluntly: there is no other player on the current roster that would elicit this kind of reaction from Austin FC supporters (sorry Stuver and Driussi, but it’s true). He scored our first-ever goal, and he was consistently one of best players during the first two seasons.

Ultimately, this is the first departure of a player that we loved, and coupled with the sudden nature of it all (trading players isn’t really a thing in other football leagues)…you can imagine why Austin FC supporters are not happy.

Rooted in Austin
On a human level, you absolutely have to feel for Diego. 

He scored our first-ever goal, has great relationships with supporters, and is all over our TVs selling us Chevy trucks and, um, the occasional Maserati.

His parents moved to Central Texas to be closer to him and have integrated themselves incredibly well to this community. You’ll often see his parents at matches, supporter events, and watch parties. I mean, his mom is my Facebook friend!

And oh yea, his partner just gave birth to his daughter a little over a week ago (remember that gender reveal at Q2 a little over five months ago?). Now he either needs to uproot his family entirely, or leave his family while he makes his move to LA. 

The move reveals the harsh reality of running a sports franchise: this is all just a business. But that doesn’t make this bitter pill any easier to swallow.

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Why Diego? Why now?
Fans may be feeling a little bit of whiplash after Diego signed a lucrative contract extension in the offseason. But therein lies the problem. His extension sees him earning a base salary of $1 million this season for performances that haven’t matched those of his previous two seasons. And in a “what have you done for me lately” culture, it doesn’t make financial sense for Austin FC to continue to invest in a player who, at 28 years of age, has a lot of tread on him. 

LA Galaxy were desperate to add a player through the only means available to them (they’re currently on a transfer ban that doesn’t allow them to sign players from abroad), and Austin just couldn’t say no to the money they’ll be saving by offloading his contract and the GAM from LA Galaxy.

Turning a new leaf
It’s unclear what role Austin FC Sporting Director Rodolfo Borrell played in Diego’s departure, especially since Anthony Precourt said that Rodo wouldn’t be involved too much in this transfer window. Personally, I find that hard to believe, but this much is true: this team has been inconsistent in all competitions, and to truly compete in the future, it needed some retooling.

This is likely a sign of things to come, and as I said when Rodo was hired, I don’t think Head Coach Josh Wolff will be a part of the “things to come.” Which is ironic because Fagundez and Wolff’s relationship had clearly soured this season. 

With the exception of Sebastian Driussi, Jon Gallagher, and Dani Pereira, our Verde & Black may look very different next season.

Still a lot to play for this season
There is still a little over 24 hours until the summer transfer window closes on August 2, so who knows what else could possibly happen, but I don’t think this is a sign of the club “throwing in the towel” with respect to the rest of the MLS season. It’s clear that a lack of depth means that Los Verdes were never going to prioritize all four competitions this season. But Austin FC currently sits 5th in the Western Conference, and a strong finish can set them up to make some noise in the playoffs.

This as a “move for the future” while still looking to finish strong this season. Sure, we get Memo Rodriguez out of this, but that’s just to make the trade work. We’re definitely going to need some things to go our way with injuries, like Emiliano Rigoni getting healthy and finding a consistent form, but that’s the bet the club is willing to take. 

I’m really looking forward to watching the Verde & Black play FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium later this month. The last time I was there Diego scored the equalizer to clinch Copa Tejas for Austin FC (only furthering his status as a club legend) and the away support went absolutely mental.

We’re still in a really good position to win Copa Tejas again, only this time someone else is going to have to find the back of the net.

Wish you the absolute best Diego…it was always easy to root for you!

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