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Over three years after Austin FC was announced as an upcoming MLS team, Head Coach Josh Wolff spoke with the media on Tuesday about the team's first days on the pitch.
The team is now two days down with official preseason training as the team prepares for their inaugural season starting April 17. Wolff said that it is satisfying to finally make it onto the field after years of work.
"There's a lot of people that put in a lot of work over the past two years for us to get us to this point," Wolff said. "For it to finally come to fruition and be out the field with the guys this last week... it's great."
Wolff talked leadership, strategy and player health in the team's first-ever preseason press conference. Here's a few key takeaways on the state of the club:
Wolff has described his leadership style as "being detailed and disciplined and having energy," and said he's happy to have both experienced and young players on the team.
"I want a dynamic group that's hungry and eager to play," Wolff said. "We want to play a certain way that's going to take a bit of bravery and courage."
With players from all levels of experience and all corners of the globe, Wolff said their initial strategy has been unifying player strategies by focusing on offense.
"I think the first thing is trying to get the players to understand philosophically how we want to play, that the ball is our friend and we want to possess the game," Wolff said. "That's the starting point, to sort of bridge all of these different ideas and personalities together into a collective mold."
When finding a unifying team culture, Wolff said it's important for team leadership to help embody Austin FC standards.
"You certainly want to set the standard quickly," Wolff said. "It starts with the environment of our leadership, our coaches, our front office, and that's something that we bleed into the team."
Wolff said that no team captain has been announced but that there are plenty of players who carry leadership qualities.
"I think we've done a good job bringing in a lot of players that exude that leadership quality... and that helps build out our identity," Wolff said. "I don't think we'll be short on leadership options."
While no captains have been released, forwards Rodney Redes and Cecilio Dominguez have been standouts in the first two days of training. Redes, who was filmed scoring a goal in a team video, has been described as having great energy on and off the field.
"Rodney's always smiling (and) he works tirelessly," Wolff said. "His verticality, to run behind lines, to arrive in the penalty box, I think that's the most impressive."
Wolff said that Dominguez, who has been training as an attacking midfielder and can play both inside and wing positions, has great position flexibility.
"Most importantly, he's got great energy, but his ability to hear what we're trying to teach and apply it quickly is nice to see," Wolff said. "What you like about him is his calm and cleverness, his mobility and movements in and around the box and his desire to score goals."
Recruits, injuries and transfer updates
With 23 players on its roster, Wolff said that their senior roster is "near completion" but that they will continue to look for supplemental players throughout the season.
The team is currently missing two signed players: designated player Tomas Pochettino and young Slovenian defender Zan Kolmanic. While Pochettino should be available next week, Wolff is unsure when Kolmanic will make it into town.
Luckily, no players have injuries that should sustain into the season so far (knock on wood), and Wolff said that the team is fairly healthy.
Although ATXFC is finally on the field, Wolff said he doesn't know if they'll ever feel a "we made it" moment unless a trophy is lifted.
"It's a testament of where we've come as a club and an organization in a short time," Wolff said. "You're able to get out on the field which is certainly a pinnacle of all the work that we've done, but it's just the beginning."
While no official schedule has been announced, it is rumored that the MLS will announce home openers Wednesday afternoon with full team schedules to be released in coming weeks.
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With more research done on the COVID-19 Delta variant, Austin Public Health is upping its goal of 70% vaccinated to at least 80% due to the extreme virality of the strain.
As more Delta cases are identified—up to 29 cases are confirmed in Travis County—health officials are urging the unvaccinated to get their shots to contain the spread and relieve hospitals from reaching full capacity.
Austin-Travis County surpassed the Stage 5 threshold on Friday and has reached a seven-day average of 61 hospital admissions. However, Austin health leaders have yet to make an official shift as the Delta variant calls for new guidance, APH Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said at a joint Travis County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning.
The new guidance has yet to be released, but Walkes said it will take into account the viral load of Delta on both unvaccinated and vaccinated people.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the Delta variant was as contagious as chickenpox, which has a herd immunity threshold of at least 90% vaccinated.
Although 63.42% of those eligible in Travis County are fully vaccinated, breakthrough cases—where vaccinated people are contracting COVID-19—are being identified. APH has identified 1,496 breakthrough cases of the roughly 800,000 vaccinated. Most breakthrough cases are showing less severe symptoms or are asymptomatic, according to APH.
Health officials are still asking residents to wear masks, although the city cannot mandate any masking orders due to an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
"Our challenge is going to be whether we're going to stand as a community and everyone who can get vaccinated, get vaccinated, and everyone wear a mask—that's what it's going to take," Walkes said.
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Save Austin Now police petition will reach November ballot after county clerk certifies 25,000 signatures
Save Austin Now is now 2-0 over Austin City Council after its petition to add more staffed police officers to the Austin Police Department was certified, garnering over the 20,000 votes needed to make it on an election ballot.
The petition calls for more police staffing per city resident, quicker response times and more training for city police officers in the wake of increasing violent crime rates nationwide and a year of limited APD staffing. The City Council will now decide whether to implement the ordinance outright or add it to the November election ballot; it will likely do the latter.
Over 25,000 of the 27,778 signatures racked up by the public safety petition were certified as valid, well over the 20,000-vote threshold required to be certified with the City Clerk. City Clerk Jannette Goodall placed the city's seal of approval on the petition on Tuesday morning.
The petition, by the same political group that got the camping ban reinstated through a petition in May, seeks to:
- Require minimum staffing of two officers per 1,000 residents
- Require a minimum standard of 35% community response time
- Add 40 hours of training
- Require city council members, Mayor Steve Adler and other city staff to enroll in the Citizens Police Academy
- Facilitate minority officer hiring through foreign language proficiency metrics
Austin's 160 patrol vacancies have dropped its staffing rate to 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents, according to the department. APD's response time has increased by about one minute and 50 seconds in a year.
The petition comes nearly a year after APD's budgets were slashed by city council following the summer's Black Lives Matter protests, which saw several demonstrators severely injured as millions called for justice in the police-related deaths of George Floyd and locally Mike Ramos, an unarmed Black man killed by APD officer Christopher Taylor, in April 2020.
Austin and the U.S. have experienced a widespread uptick in violent crime rates in 2021. The city has reached 49 homicides in 2021, higher than the total number of murders in all of 2020 and the 38 homicides in the city in 2019. Austin police officers have seen response times rise as the department suffers increased vacancies and fewer newcomers while cadet classes are being readjusted.
Opponents argue the ordinance would ramp up a policing budget while taking away from other departments including Fire, EMS, violence prevention, and mental health care. City Council Member Greg Casar, the Travis County Democratic Party and the Austin Justice Coalition have spoken out against the organization's latest public safety move, calling out the campaign as a "right-wing petition" that misleads those who sign.
🔥 PANTS ON FIRE: Republican-front group Save Austin Now is lying about their petition!
They say their measure is about police reform, when it's really about devastating our city budget - all for the benefit of the police union. Watch the video here ⬇️ #ATX pic.twitter.com/Z6QQSfhHfH
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) August 2, 2021
The latest battle between city council and Save Austin Now will be decided by Austin residents in the Nov. 2 election.
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Austin City Limits fest and iHeartRadio Fest are the latest festivals to announce the removal of rapper DaBaby, who has come under fire for homophobic comments made during a recent festival.
The 29-year-old rapper, whose real name is Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, was dropped by Lollapalooza just hours before his set on Sunday, followed by the Governor's Ball in New York and Nevada's Day N Vegas after making unsolicited comments about men with HIV/AIDS at the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami. Rolling Stone Magazine confirmed with iHeartRadio organizers that DaBaby will no longer perform.
DaBaby will no longer be performing at Austin City Limits Music Festival — lineup update coming soon. pic.twitter.com/jAYfdJFxJf
— ACL Festival (@aclfestival) August 3, 2021
There is no word on who he will be replaced with yet, though rumors on ACL's subreddit, r/aclfestival, are saying they expect Tyler, The Creator, who performed at Lollapalooza. Kirk will be replaced at Day N Vegas by rapper Roddy Ricch.
Kirk later backtracked his offensive statements on his Instagram story, but again faced criticism for not exactly apologizing.
After facing a second round of backlash for his Instagram statements, the rapper posted on Instagram, saying:
In addition to being dropped from the festivals, DaBaby has been denounced by fellow celebrities like Dua Lipa, Madonna and Elton John.
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