Austin FC officially tanked to the bottom of the MLS Western Conference after a lackluster performance against No. 1 Seattle Sounder's bench players last week, disappointing even the most hardcore fans who have been looking for another breakthrough for weeks.
But there could be light at the end of the tunnel.
Just as the club received scrutiny for their loss against the youngest MLS lineup ever and lack of scoring options, South American transfer expert Cesar Luis Merlo reported that Argentine Sebastian Driussi would be transferring to the club. The announcement comes after rumors of interest in Driussi, who plays in the Russian Premier League, swirled for weeks.
🚨🚨Sebastián Driussi jugará en el Austin FC 🇺🇲.
*️⃣El club de la MLS pagó la cláusula acordada para su salida y los abogados ya trabajan en la confección de su contrato.
*️⃣Su oficialización es cuestión de ⏳. #trarohecho pic.twitter.com/95qS6KJ1UH
— César Luis Merlo (@CLMerlo) July 26, 2021
Merlo, who broke the news on Twitter on Monday, last reported the signing of Austin FC's Tomas Pochettino from Argentina.
While Austin FC hasn't confirmed the move, Driussi's former club FC Zenit reported on the transfer on Monday afternoon.
We can confirm that Sebastian Driussi has now left the club.
Everyone at Zenit wishes him all the best for the future.
📰 https://t.co/DcbiIMnF4V pic.twitter.com/rJts0sqSST
— FC Zenit in English✨ (@fczenit_en) July 26, 2021
Driussi joins new signee Moussa Djitte, another forward and true striker from Grenoble, as new intriguing answers to Austin's cry for help.
It's no secret that Austin isn't putting the ball in the back of the net: the club has been shut out for eight of its last ten matches, just two of which have taken place within its stadium walls. Head Coach Josh Wolff has endured the brunt of explaining the team's scorelessness, admitting the team's lack of scoring every week with a slightly deeper frown etched on his face.
"From a goal-scoring standpoint... it's been lackluster and poor," Wolff said after the 1-0 Seattle loss. "The reality is that we haven't scored goals... you've got to score goals to win games."
While some criticism toward Wolff's strategy, a lack of urgency and poor decision-making on the pitch are warranted—and have been freely expressed by frustrated fans and haters—the team has been even worse off due to its constant slew of injuries.
The team has been without a solid striker at least since frontman Danny Hoesen was declared out for the season due to a hip injury. Even before his injury, Hoesen had failed to solidify himself as the team's offensive leader, while teammate Jon Gallagher showed spurts of greatness but couldn't find consistency.
Gallagher himself scored the first Q2 Stadium goal with an injured foot and was out for a few weeks, as have been Captain Alex Ring, midfielder Tomas Pochettino and center back Matt Besler. Starters including midfielder Daniel Pereira, left back Ben Sweat, right back Nick Lima are among the six still stuck on the bench.
With injuries and a learning curve to boot, Austin has scored just 10 goals this season—tied for the least in the conference. While Dominguez and surprise star Diego Fagundez have scored three goals apiece, the out-of-position players haven't been able to heal the holes in the lineup and beat veteran MLS opponents.
Even after a breakout 4-1 over Portland that injected new energy into the team, Austin has been subject to critics who fairly wonder when the club will right its sinking ship.
First summer signing: Moussa Djitte
DONDE ESTÁ DJITTE?!?!?— WeAreAustinTV (@WeAreAustinTV) July 23, 2021
HAVE YOU SEEN DJITTE?!?! pic.twitter.com/ssMfTdby1v
Wolff and Sporting Director Claudio Reyna have long had plans to get a boost in the summer transfer window, and the need for scoring help became increasingly evident as the season progressed.
Djitte, a 21-year-old striker in the French Ligue 2, was announced as a U-22 signee with an undisclosed transfer salary on June 30.
Djitte comes from Grenoble in the French league, where he scored eight goals in 35 appearances last season. The striker also spent time with FC Sion in the Swiss Super League but is originally from Senegal, where he played for ASC Niarri Tally in Dakar. He also represented Senegal internationally, making his debut for the Senegal U-20 team and scoring the only goal in his first match with the U23 team in 2018.
Wolff and crew hoped for Djitte's arrival by the July 22 match, but to no avail. As the club once again failed to put points on the board, fans continue to impatiently await his arrival as Djitte's paperwork is sorted out.
The pressure's on for Djitte, who some have called the club's only hope. But that burden is put twofold on Driussi, who holds more experience and acclaim than his new younger teammate.
Second signing: Sebastian Driussi
Sebastian Driussi: "Thank you from me and from my family. St. Petersburg is an amazing city and Zenit is a fantastic club. Maybe one day we will meet again!"@SebadriussiOk has a farewell message to the club and the fans— FC Zenit in English✨ (@fczenit_en) July 26, 2021
📧 https://t.co/urgPQxvcVr pic.twitter.com/Yr1AbBsQvj
Driussi has an even more decorated history under his belt. An Argentina native, the forward spent five seasons with Primera Division member River Plate, scoring 17 goals in his final season with the club before transferring to the Russian Premier League. While with FC Zenit, Driussi helped the club to the Russian Cup Championship in 2019 and scored 21 goals in four seasons with the team.
Driussi has already been lauded as a saving grace for Austin's stagnant offense, but it will be a minute before he steps onto the pitch in Verde. Djitte is expected to fly to Austin this week, but both players will need to quarantine before they can suit up onto the Q2 Stadium turf.
Time will tell whether or not the two turn the tables for Austin before it's too late, but the new faces are sure to bring back excitement as Austin reaches the halfway point of its first-ever season.
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In May, Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein looked back on 10 years of Formula 1's U.S. Grand Prix at COTA confident that the race would be here to stay in Texas. But sources tell Austonia that securing another contract may be in jeopardy.
Some insiders worry that COTA's 2021 Grand Prix race might be its last.
The multi-day fest from Oct. 22-24 will include a 56-lap race over the 3.3-mile track, food and musical performances from two acts, including Billy Joel at COTA's 1,500-acre facility in Southeast Austin. But after this year, the U.S.' first F1-specific track could lose its headline event.
The facility's inability to secure a contract thus far comes down to the Texas Legislature, a new threat in Miami, and, most importantly, money.
The first F 1 race will take place in Miami next year. (Hard Rock Stadium)
Every year, Formula 1 receives roughly $25 million from Texas' Major Events Reimbursement Program, a taxpayer-funded initiative that helps bring big sporting events like 2017's Houston Super Bowl to the state. A 2019 report by the Reimbursements Program on that year's race said the "data is inconclusive" on if the event has a positive or negative economic impact on the state with the resources given. In 2018, the Austin-American Statesman reported that COTA had brought back a total of $75.7 million between 2015 and 2017 for hosting the U.S. Grand Prix.
Legal issues have also barred Epstein and Co. from securing another 10-year contract earlier: in 2018, the company lost its yearly $25 million bid after failing to submit a human trafficking prevention plan as part of its yearly application.
That same year, F1 managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches told the Associated Press that the organization hopes to stay at COTA "for many years to come."
However, in May, the racing league announced that it had secured a 10-year contract to hold the Miami Grand Prix as American interest in the sport soared following the three-season "Drive to Survive" documentary, which gives behind-the-scenes looks at drivers and races of the Formula One World Championship.
Epstein is optimistic about the new U.S. location and told Autoweek in May that "more race in our time zones are good for the sport."
"I think we're getting double the impact this way," Epstein said. "Miami should sell out huge the first year and maybe the second year and then after that, I think we'd be spitting audience if we were around the same time on the calendar. So the spread is fantastic."
Bobby Epstein recognizes the 1 millionth customer of COTA in 2013. (COTA/Facebook)
The new F1 venture may impact COTA's contract, however: in an opinion piece for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, writer Mac Engel said Texas is unlikely to fork over taxpayer money if the facility is no longer the only F1 track in the U.S.
According to Engel, the Major Events Reimbursements Program agrees to provide funding only "if Austin holds the only F1 race in the country."
Epstein hasn't addressed such claims; by contrast, he feels as though there's room for a third race in the U.S. as ticket sales rebound after COVID.
"In the first week, we sold pretty much all the tickets we put up for sale and we plan to break the 2019 attendance record," Epstein told Autoweek. "Texas was the first place to lift COVID-19 restrictions (in the U.S.) and put on sporting events, and we're full. We're at 100% capacity.
Despite ventures to diversify revenue at COTA—Epstein's USL soccer team Austin Bold has seen its own share of troubles, and the facility plans to develop into a multi-faceted entertainment arena complete with music venues, a waterpark, condominiums and an 11-story hotel—a loss of its primary event could be devastating for the $300 million complex.
F1 has rarely lasted more than a decade at venues in the U.S. over the last century; let's hope Austin breaks that curse.
COTA's media relations team did not immediately get back to Austonia for comment.
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Houston? Dallas? San Antonio? No, it has to be Austin.
We know Californians love Texas, but a recent string of posts on neighborhood platform Nextdoor in Santa Barbara, California, displays what the craze to move to Austin looks like.
When one user posted, "Hi neighbors, I want to buy a house in Houston, Texas any recommendations?" the responses flooded in displaying what the admiration for Austin looks like from the West Coast. Users mostly advised against a move to Houston; one person even wrote, "Austin is the ONLY place to consider!!"
While some defended H-town, saying, "Awesome place to live," one person wrote, "WORST PLACE TO LIVE." Reasons to not move to Houston from Californians' perspective included:
- "Foul air from refineries"
- "horrible flooding due to the flat Gulf coastal shelf"
- "crazy zoning"
- "racial prejudice"
- "super high humidity"
- "very conservative"
The comments were shifted to Austin's lush greenery, weather and acceptance of gay people.
Over the last five years, Austin has seen more migrants from California than any other state, according to an Austin Chamber of Commerce report. The Austin appeal from residents living in more congested places like California became more prevalent during the pandemic when stay-at-home orders were issued and people sought more space.
It wasn't just Austin though; lots of other Sunbelt cities saw an influx in their housing market as a result of people working from home and looking for a lower cost of living. And that included Texas in general, with people flooding to various Texas cities.
But it hasn't come with resistance. The "Don't California my Texas" pleas are still alive and well, as Californians are blamed for raising the cost of living by outpricing current residents. The housing market has reached record numbers in the median home price year-over-year since the beginning of the pandemic. Austin was even predicted to be the most expensive city outside of California by the end of the year.
Still, Californians and even New Yorkers can't stay away. Companies and celebrities have followed, leading Texas transplant Elon Musk to label Austin's future as "the biggest boomtown that America has seen in half a century."