'Number one fans': Austin FC fathers balance family, soccer and being the coolest dads at Career Day
Austin FC's roster is stocked with guys in all different stages of life, but nearly all stick to a similar mantra: "family comes first (and) soccer comes second." For nine Austin FC athletes, that means balancing hours of grueling work with fatherhood off the pitch.
That lifestyle became apparent when Matt Besler, the club's starting defender and one of the best center backs in MLS history, stayed home for Austin's second-ever match to witness the birth of his son Miller. Besler had already missed the birth of his first daughter and wasn't going to miss one again.
"It's in God's hands of when the baby's going to come, and you do your best to plan as much as possible, but in the end, it usually never works out that way," Besler said. "We just felt like it was better for me to just stay back and not travel because you don't want to regret missing that."
Besler's wife, Amanda, and two daughters joined him on his journey to Austin after 12 years with Sporting Kansas City. Balancing family and soccer isn't too bad, Besler said, and neither aspect of his life has suffered from the other. Still, he admits there isn't much time for Netflix binging or picking up hobbies.
"I feel like I've been able to balance those two things really well... but it really is just balancing my family and soccer," Besler said. "That's about all I have time for, but... I would rather have it this way than the other way where you feel like you're getting pulled in like a million different directions."
Besler's children haven't quite wrapped their head around their dad being a professional football player—he currently has them convinced he's an aspiring magician—but they do share a post-game ritual: playing Operation on Dad.
"They like to be the doctor (and) inspect all my bruises and scratches from the game," Besler said. "So they each have their medical kits and they do a physical exam on me, and they're always worried about daddy getting hurt or kicked. So that's probably as far as we get in terms of the soccer fandom."
While adjusting to Austin has been difficult—namely, the sweltering Texas summer heat—Besler said his family has adjusted with the help of an at-home swimming pool and the city's overwhelming support.
Fellow central defender Julio Cascante feels the same way. Cascante and his wife, Jessica, had their hands full when they moved to Austin from Portland with their then-four-month-old son Anto. Pair that with Austin FC's stagnant record, which has garnered plenty of criticism, and life on the Verde pitch can be pretty stressful.
Cascante said he's able to leave the pressures of the job thanks to his role as a husband and father.
"You get home and you see your baby, I think that's that's what gives you that relief," Cascante said. "He wants to be with you as soon as you get off, and so you forget about all the bad things that happened to you today (because) they only think about you as a father."
For Diego Fagundez, seeing pictures of his children with him on the pitch reminds him why he plays.
"It's something that I'll never forget, and I hope that they'll never forget, and they can tell their kids someday," Fagundez said. "That's why I do it. I might be having a bad day, but at the end of the day, they still bring my smile... It's the best feeling in the world."
Having built-in fans has its benefits. Fagundez's three-year-old daughter, Maria, has already been seen shouting his name in the supporter's section, and he hopes one day she'll be on the podium with fan band La Murga's "capos," or chant leaders.
"They're my number one fans," Fagundez said. "In that video of my daughter in the south end with all the fans, she's throwing her arms and singing and yelling. That's amazing to me."
Fagundez, whose father played professionally too, hopes to create the same memories he enjoyed as a kid for his own children. Fagundez, Besler and Cascante all hope to see their kids play soccer one day, but more importantly, they hope to pass on key aspects of the sport—passion, kindness, dedication and sacrifice.
While adjusting to a new city with a young family has been difficult for all, they're thankful for all the support from Austin fans that help the Texas capital feel like home. Fagundez has become great friends with members of Los Verdes, and some have even helped him watch his kids as he goes to training.
"Austin's amazing," Fagundez said. "From the first day they got here, the fan base just helped me so much. If I needed something, they would be the first ones there. It's like one big, happy family."
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President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law on Tuesday, a move that the White House says will unlock hundreds of billions more in semiconductor investment across the country.
Part of that investment could make waves in Central Texas, where semiconductor companies have laid the groundwork for more plants and jobs as a global shortage of semiconductors continues.
For example, Samsung already had a $17 billion semiconductor factory in Taylor on the way. Then in July, documents filed with the state showed that the tech giant is considering 11 chipmaking facilities in the Austin area that it’d build over the next two decades. The proposed $192.1 billion investment would bring more than 10,000 jobs.
\u201cThe CHIPS Act will supercharge our efforts to make semiconductors here in America. It will make cars, appliances, and computers cheaper and lower the costs of everyday goods. And, it will create high-paying manufacturing jobs across the country.\u201d— Joe Biden (@Joe Biden) 1659828240
Micron Technology is another giant that could make a multi-billion regional investment.
At the start of the year, Micron Technology was reportedly considering a new plant in neighboring Caldwell and Williamson counties, though California, North Carolina and Arizona were also being reviewed as potential sites for the plant.
On Tuesday, Micron announced plans to invest $40 billion between now and 2030 for chip manufacturing in the U.S.
In a public video statement, CEO Sanjay Mehrotra noted how semiconductors are essential to many tools that are a part of everyday life such as computers, smartphones and cars.
“Today is a proud moment for the global Micron team and a strong step forward for American high tech manufacturing leadership,” Mehrotra said. The company said specific plans for the investment will be made available in the coming weeks.
\u201cToday, we announced plans to invest $40 billion in the U.S. through the end of the decade to build leading-edge memory #manufacturing. Our investment will create 40k American jobs and strengthen U.S. supply chains. Watch this space! #jobs #innovation https://t.co/WPePuDVJs6\u201d— Micron Technology (@Micron Technology) 1660050842
Recently, the city has made efforts to train Austin residents for the kind of roles companies like Micron and Samsung would try to fill. A couple of months ago, the city announced a “hire local” plan with Workforce Solutions to help people in fields like manufacturing and information technology get training to move up in their careers.
The bipartisan bill includes $52 billion in semiconductor subsidies. Nationwide, these incentives could create thousands of jobs and multiple fabs, the Semiconductor Industry Association estimates. Some of that could happen in the Austin area from companies looking to expand.
NXP Semiconductors is weighing a $2.6 billion expansion and Infineon Technologies is looking at a $700 million expansion. Respectively, those two could add 800 and 100 jobs.
Central Texas has a reputation as a major hub for semiconductors, and the competition with other areas could ramp up in the coming years as others like Qualcomm and Intel consider new facilities. Dallas-based Texas Instruments also celebrated the passing of the CHIPS Act.
“TI has an exciting manufacturing investment roadmap and these provisions will be meaningful to the development of our 300-mm water fabs in Texas and Utah,” the company said in a Tuesday Twitter post.
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It’s slowly but surely becoming easier to buy a house in Austin.
According to the Austin Board of Realtors, the median house price in the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area is $537,475 as of July. Take a look at what that price range can get you.
This two-story brick home is the biggest on the list, with four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms across 2,156 square feet in Round Rock. Characterized by its sky-high ceilings, large windows and newly updated fixtures, the home has a spacious backyard with mature trees, a wooden deck, a lounge area and close proximity to a nearby greenbelt.
This listing is held by Drew Griffin with Compass.
This recently updated three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was built in 1983 but fits in perfectly with the design standards of today. On top of newly-updated floors, roof and windows, this home comes complete with a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, a spacious open floor plan and plenty of natural light. The biggest gem of this house is its vaulted and covered back patio, which gives way to a large backyard on a corner lot. At 1,280 square feet, the home is just a few minutes away from The Domain and Q2 Stadium.
This listing is held by Jennifer Buterick and Nicole Marburger with Compass.
Another retro find, this 2,098-square foot home has character to go around and is looking for a caretaker who will love it as much as the last. With four bedrooms and two bathrooms, the house has plenty of room for a home office and is colorfully painted throughout, including bright blue kitchen cabinets. On a third of an acre, this home comes with 12 fruiting trees in the backyard, solar panels, rain-catching barrels and a converted garage with living space.
This listing is held by Niki Duncan with Compass.
This three-bedroom, two-bathroom South Austin home has a wide-open floor plan and sparkling white interiors. The vaulted ceiling in the living room gives height to the room while the fireplace will keep you warm. An airy master suite comes with double pedestal sinks and two walk-in closets, so you don’t have to worry about sharing space with your partner. Enjoy the Texas weather with a private yard, screened-in porch, and fire pit.
This listing is held by Michelle Hendrix and Khani Zulu with Compass.
A retro-on-the-outside, single-story home was built in 1973 but has been given a full modern update on the inside. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,676-square foot home is situated on a half acre of land, complete with an above-ground pool and covered porch to keep you shady during the oppressive heat. Inside, you’ll walk directly into an open living and dining area, which features a floor-to-ceiling tiled fireplace, that leads to the breakfast nook, and kitchen with mosaic-tiled backsplash and a built-in wine rack.
This listing is held by Derek Peterson with Compass.