The MLS West Conference throne slipped from Austin FC's grasp as the club fell for the first time this season in a 1-0 loss at the Portland Timbers' rainy home fortress on Saturday.
Austin's 10-goal momentum was slashed in the match after a hard-fought 90 minutes complete with eight yellow cards, a fateful handball call and goalpost-hitting shots. But despite the scoreboard, this match may have been a better testament to Austin's new skillset than any game so far.
Here are three takeaways from Austin's first road match of the season:
Is Austin FC still legit?
Even with back-to-back five goal wins—which broke an MLS record—some league fans still questioned whether Austin FC is really the team it seems to be.
This loss might not silence all of the naysayers.
The club may have been blessed by the MLS scheduling gods, but they were in for a real test for their first road match. Away games have always been Austin's weak spot—the club won just two road matches last season, while Portland gave up just four losses at its home fortress.
It didn't help that the game was cold and wet, making for a slippery surface on the Timbers' artificial turf. And fans may rag on the ref after every sporting event ever, but there were some fateful calls—or lack thereof—that could have directly contributed to the end result.
Either way, the match goes down as the first loss in Austin FC's 2022 schedule. But this is not yet a tale of two seasons—unlike the club's scorelessness and nine-game losing streak on the road last season, Austin FC showed grit and poise through most of the match, controlling possession and ping-ponging back and forth with swift, (mostly) accurate passing strategy.
Already three goals in, Austin's Sebastian Driussi was guarded hard alongside Captain Alex Ring, leaving the team with a weaker front end that couldn't quite finish. And while the club was lacking in the final third, it showed that second-season confidence up front that nearly led to a goal before another would-be Driussi goal was called offsides in the 32nd minute.
Even though the club may continue to be chronically underestimated—perhaps rightfully so this week—Austin FC did not leave this match without a good fight.
Defense—and depth—make the difference
After taking the backseat in Austin's first five-goal wins, the Verde and Black back line shone in the club's first road match.
Zan Kolmanic and Nick Lima—Austin's starting left and right backs—rarely get the limelight, but they proved their importance in head coach Josh Wolff's build-from-the-back playing style with plenty of game savers Saturday night.
Both defenders won most of their duels with Portland winger Yimmi Chará and the rest of the Timbers offense. Lima's speed and calm helped slow down tense situations before they led to goals, while Kolmanic was a key cog in Austin's offense as he funneled his passes up the left side.
New Finnish center back Ruben Gabrielsen took the stage alongside the two with his first start of the season over young CB Kipp Keller. Gabrielsen took a tumble on a corner kick to help give up Portland's only goal, but he and speedy sub Jon Gallagher became Portland's public enemy No. 1 in the second half as the two kept the score 1-0.
Austin FC promised better defense and depth at the end of last season, and it has delivered.
Wolff swapped five players just after the set piece goal. It might have been too late of a decision for some fans' liking, but the players he chose kept the Verde and Black in the game for the rest of the match. Gallagher, who started as a winger to the club, outran every Portland forward with ease at left back, while Ethan Finlay took post at the wing.
Even Rodney Redes, who failed to end last season with results, was in the fight for a late-game goal. Striker Moussa Djitte was the only sub who seemed to lack some oomph in the final minutes of the match.
Recovery is key
Austin was all fight in the first half, but some old cracks began to resurface as the club was hit with three straight yellow cards to start the second half.
Afterwards, the Verde and Black seemed to lose control, leading to more mistakes and lost goalscoring opportunities as frustration mounted.
Austin has historically struggled with "second-half curses" and recovering when it's down, something it'll need to stamp out as it heads into a home match against the formidable Seattle Sounders without its 10-goal momentum on Sunday.
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Flyers are less satisfied with the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport than a year ago, a new study shows.
Research firm J.D. Power placed ABIA at No. 15 on a list ranking overall customer satisfaction at large airports, a slip from last year’s spot at No. 7. Other Texas airports secured rankings ahead of Austin, with Dallas Love Field at third, Houston Hobby at eight, and San Antonio International Airport at ninth.
Dallas/Ft. Worth ranked eight in the "mega airport" category.
The study examined airports based on the following factors: terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.
On a 1,000-point scale, Austin-Bergstrom received 785 points this year compared to its score of 819 in 2021.
Passenger experiences at Austin-Bergstrom have been influenced by population growth in Central Texas, which has brought record traffic and longer wait times at TSA. And a recent power outage at Austin-Bergstrom caused flight delays. Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power., said that consumer satisfaction with flying has decreased overall.
“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated—and it is likely to continue through 2023,” Taylor said.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, commented on the ranking.
“We're grateful that AUS customers continue to rank our airport above average, especially during this year that saw air travel disruption here in Austin and across the globe as airports, airlines and the air travel industry continued navigating the impacts of the pandemic,” Grimmett said. “We look forward to delivering near-term and long-term improvements through our Journey With AUS program to improve the passenger experience.”
That program is slated to bring a new midfield concourse to increase gates and connect to the Barbara Jordan Terminal through an underground connector tunnel.
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.