Austin FC couldn't quite start their home matches with a splash as they pulled a scoreless draw against San Jose on Saturday, but they still kept a near-sold out crowd captivated as they celebrated all things Austin.
Thousands of fans have been watching Austin FC get built from the ground up since 2017, and they weren't disappointed as Austin FC commemorated their city with music, McConaughey and plenty of matchday excitement.
Despite the empty scoreboard, this was one of the most energized and focused Austin FC performances to date. Held together by back-to-back-to back saves by keeper Brad Stuver and spurred on by the "oohs" and "ahhs" of the crowd, Austin kept a clean sheet in their first match on the Q2 Stadium pitch.
Austin FC strikers Jon Gallagher, Diego Fagundez and Cecilio Dominguez were energized from the sea of Verde as they nearly brought shot after shot to goal. Stuver tied his career-best with nine saves and continued to add to his ever-growing highlight reel
Thousands in the stadium responded to every shot, save and breakaway with equally-deafening roars, something that Fagundez said the club's been waiting for a long time after nine weeks on the road.
"When I stepped out right before the game started, I got the chills," Fagundez said. It was something special."
As the final whistle blew, thousands chanted Stuver's name to commemorate the fan favorite's shutout performance. Austin FC gained a point towards their standings as they logged their third consecutive draw.
While the scoreboard may have appeared otherwise, Austin FC and its fanbase more than made up for their scorelessness with an all-day extravaganza that highlighted the spirit of the city.
To celebrate the long-awaited occasion, watch parties began well before the afternoon and hundreds marched to the stadium a few hours before the match.
Masked dancers kept the hype going as hundreds filed around Q2 Stadium. (Claire Partain/Austonia)
Perhaps the crowning jewel of the day was a massive "tifo," or banner, that combined all of the city's iconic symbols into one massive artwork. More than 200 people contributed to the work, according to Rigo Rodriguez, who was part of the Los Verdes crew that created the project.
"The meaning and the message of it isn't just about soccer," Rodriguez said. "It's about our city and about our community, right? We want people to feel proud, and not just about them, but about the person next to them (too)."
Spanning dozens of feet long and held up by gigantic ropes, the tifo brought together music, art and famous Austin landmarks and featured both Willie Nelson and Matthew McConaughey.
A gigantic tifo celebrating what makes Austin unique was raised by Los Verdes in the supporters' section before the match.
After the tifo was successfully raised, another surprise unfolded on the Q2 Stadium pitch. McConaughey, who is part owner of the club, had already been spotted in a bright Verde suit before he hit the field once again- this time with a bongo drum. McConaughey faced the thousands-strong supporters' section and banged on his bongo, chanting "Verde" and "Listos" to an ecstatic crowd.
June 19th may have been Austin FC's home opener, but it also represents Juneteenth, a national holiday that commemorates the emancipation of slaves in Texas and has know become a day about Black Lives Matter and other Civil Rights movements. To honor the holiday, Austin musician Jackie Venson brought a grand piano onto the pitch and sand a rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a song that has been called the "Black national anthem." Just after the performance, Texas-raised artist Aaron Stephens, who played the official national anthem on a twangy, soulful guitar.
You sounded great! Our team was honored to have your song be the first ever sung at an #austinfc game! #JuneTeenth2021 pic.twitter.com/yftuI0aa9A
— Adam Ribbeck (@aribbs) June 20, 2021
Verde fireworks were set off as the watch party began, and the party that began as early as 11 a.m. at some watch parties continued within the stadium.
"McConau-who?" said Evan Weaver and Gary Vail, who were unfazed by McConaughey's Verde suit and wore giant green suits of their own. The two have been fans of Austin FC since it was just an abstract concept, a theme that was echoed by many Austin fans come matchday.
McConaughey has nothing on Evan WEaver and Gary Vail, two longtime fans who wore plenty of green for matchday. (Claire Partain/Austonia)
The echoes of Austin FC's first home match are still ringing in Q2 Stadium walls, and Fagundez said there's more where that came from.
"I think we have the best fan base all around," Fagundez said. "We want to bring Austin to the world. We're going to make this a fortress (and) we're going to make this a place where no one wants to play."
Austin FC fans will have to wait a little longer for another home match as the club hits the road once again to take on Minnesota United on Wednesday, June 23rd.
Until then, here's what you missed on matchday:
8:10 p.m. Kickoff!
Austin FC's first match at Q2 is underway, and the club is off to a hot start. Dominguez already showed off to the crowd with a cutback, and Diego Fagundez very nearly pushed past the San Jose keeper.
8 p.m: McConaughey brings out a bongo
Matthew McConaughey + his bongo = Perfect Austin FC home opener pic.twitter.com/2x7PXK8I7R— KXAN News (@KXAN_News) June 20, 2021
Austin FC part-owner Matthew McConaughey arrived early to a pitch in a bright Verde suit, and he didn't hesitate to rile up fans with a premade video just before kickoff. "Come as you are, Austin, it's time to mix and match..." McConaughey said. "Listos!"
McConaughey could later be seen bringing out a bongo drum to the center of the pitch as the crowd rose to give him a standing ovation.
Facing the supporters' section, McConaughey banged his bongo and led the crowd in a chant. The stadium echoed with cries of "Verde" and "Listos" as bright green fireworks lit up the pitch.
7:15 p.m: Austin FC's first starting XI at home
Austin FC's first starting lineup at Q2 Stadium was released just over 30 minutes before kickoff. Head coach Josh Wolff is stacking the front end with Designated Players Cecilio Dominguez and Tomas Pochettino, while usual frontmen Jon Gallagher and Jared Stroud are flanking either side of the midfield.
Julio Cascante is still in for Jhohan Romana, and Brad Stuver is, as per usual, holding it down in goal.
7 p.m: Stands are filling and banners are flying
The supporters' section has already nearly filled over an hour before kickoff. (Claire Partain/Austonia)
Q2 Stadium opened its doors around two hours before kickoff, and supporters did not hesitate to fill up the stands. The standing-only supporters' section is flowing with flags, banners and signs depicting Austin classics like the late Daniel Johnston's "Hi, how are you?" design.
As fans grab the stadium's local food and drink for the first time, Los Verdes is beginning to place a structure for a massive "tifo," or banner, that will be hanging across the entire South end at the start of the match. Around 200 fans contributed to the art piece, which was directed by Austin artist Luis Angulo (known professionally as ULOANG.)
5:15 p.m: A sea of Verde marches to Q2
Austin FC fans marched to Q2 Stadium to commemorate the home opener. (Claire Partain/Austonia)
Starting just under three hours before kickoff, hundreds of supporters downed their BBQ and beers at Hopsquad and Circle Brewing and took to the streets. Anyone with out a few square miles was sure to hear the deafening cheers and drumbeats as fans marched to Q2 Stadium.
Onlookers joined in from above, men in Verde and Black superhero masks riled up the crowd. Led by a Black Lives Matter banner, the group chanted McConaughey-inspired classics ("Alright, alright, alright, alright Austin FC") as they paraded through the streets.
Once at their destination, the crowd parked in front of Q2 and belted out more tunes as hundreds jumped and cheered.
3 p.m: "It's been a long time coming"
As the hours go by, fans reflect on the long journey it took to get here.
Brandon Olds is a longtime supporter of Austin FC, before it even was Austin FC. He remembers the long nights standing outside City Hall for Austin City Council to approve Austin's very own professional team. Now, he sits at Hopsquad Brewing with his two kids, awaiting the parade to Q2 Stadium. "This is huge, this is Austin's center stage," Olds said.
While he recently moved to Florida, he plans to use his season tickets any chance he gets. It brings his family closer together, he says.
"It's been a long time coming," his son Bailey added.
Noon: It's never too early to start pregaming
By noon, Austin FC supporter group members and fans were already sitting with a cold beer in their hand at Circle Brewing and Hopsquad Brewing, among other pubs around town. And because there can never be enough soccer, playing on the screens are different soccer games. View watch parties happening around the city here. No rush, you have all day to head to one!
11 a.m: Verde Store is packed as fans look for last-minute merch
Austin FC fans are scrambling to get last-minute merch before the match. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)
Austonia visited Austin FC's Verde Store around 11 a.m., and it was about as full as it was the day it opened. Fans perused the two-story store at Q2 Stadium looking to sport some Verde merch before the big game. The store is open until 2 p.m. today.
Jackie Venson announces performance before the match
Today is the day! Before I take the stage tonight at @Antones, I’ll be taking the field at @Q2Stadium to perform before @AustinFC’s first match. Feelings are off the charts, these are my dreams coming true and it’s happening in my home town ❤️ pic.twitter.com/qx07e5hNXv— Jackie Venson (@jackievenson) June 19, 2021
Austin musician Jackie Venson went Verde as she announced her upcoming performance this morning. Venson will be the first performer at Q2 Stadium as she belts out some tunes just before the match.
El Arroyo and others show their Verde support
LET’S GO, Y’ALL!!!! 💚⚽ It’s finally game day in sunny ATX and we couldn’t be more excited! This wide load couldn’t fit in a stadium seat… So we asked for a jersey to rep our friends @AustinFC from here in downtown! #VERDE #LISTOS pic.twitter.com/iXhuisonry— El Arroyo (@ElArroyo_ATX) June 19, 2021
All of Austin is going green this Saturday, including several local businesses eager to show their support. El Arroyo's iconic sign is draped in a giant Austin FC jersey for the occasion and dozens of Pub Club members and other bars are hosting watch parties and dressing up in Verde in honor of the club.
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Five Austin companies joined Google's second Startups Black Founders Fund on Wednesday, earning $100,000 each as part of the $10 million initiative geared toward giving Black entrepreneurs access to funding for their startups.
The fund gave $100,000 to 50 founders nationwide, including Austin companies CustomerX.i, Journey Foods, Sandbox Commerce, The Mentor Method and Tadeblock.
The founders will receive the funding without giving up any ownership of their startups and will gain access to Google technical support including up to $120,000 in donated search Ads from Google.org and up to $100,000 in Google Cloud credits. The Austin companies will also join a select few—the fund is only two years old and last year rewarded 76 Black-led startups with up to $100,000 as well.
Google's Startup funds can be used to boost Black founders' companies into success—last year, founders raised up to $50 million in capital after recieving the funds, and 80% of the companies used their funds to create jobs.
Founders from last year's batch then paid it forward by nominating new companies and announcing the winners via Zoom.
Here's a look at those 5 founders in Austin:
Hakeem James- Customer X.I
Customer X.I founder Hakeem James wants to help small restaurants thrive.
Customer X.I founder Hakeem James wants to keep mom-and-pop shops alive. That's why he started his company to bridge "the gap between online and offline" and give restaurants and small businesses a centralized location to analyze their data against competitors.
"The question we ask internally: is it simple enough for my grandmother to use? For the record, my grandmother sometimes picks up the phone upside down," James told Microsoft.
The company's data can help businesses small and large better understand their customers—from their names to their drink choices—to build better relationships and customer loyalty.
But it hasn't been easy, especially as labor shortages and COVID safety policies affect restaurants during the pandemic. James said he heard about Google for Startups at Austin's entrepreneur hub, Capital Factory. He and the team will use the funding to create "freemium" plans as they seek to keep restaurants open.
"It has also allowed us to offer our products to restaurants that need it most on a freemium basis to keep their doors open and accelerate their growth when it has never been harder to do so," James said. "Being recognized and backed by Google is monumental for us; it is a signal to our partners of our growing success in the market and the expanded capacity we now have to serve our clients."
Riana Lynn- Journey Foods
Lynn said the startup fund will help level the playing field for Black entrepreneurs that may not get the funding they need.
"The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund is a strong step in increasing the significant discrepancies in funding to many groups of founders, especially founders of color," Lynn said. "The funds will be used to add more science and engineering talent to our team and improve our impact in supply chains."
The company takes a step further back in the food industry process by merging research and development for food companies. Through comprehensive food data, Journey Foods helps provide insights on ingredients, pricing, manufacturing, and supply chain information to companies across the food industry.
From suppliers to packaging companies, Journey Foods hopes to reduce waste and costs by streamlining the food creation process.
Sterling Smith- Sandbox Commerce
Sandbox Commerce CEO Sterling Smith wasn't given a heads-up when he earned a spot in the Black Startups Fund- instead, he thought he was in his final interview.
Smith, who founded the app company in 2018, expressed his gratitude for the funding.
"Everyone involved, I really appreciate you guys betting on Sandbox," Smith said. "I can tell my mom now, right?"
Sandbox Commerce looks to create simple apps for companies without any technical or coding skills needed. The company looks to especially help the underdogs, including small businesses or underrepresented companies, in bridging the gap between computer skills and entrepreneurs.
Janice Omadeke- The Mentor Method
The Mentor Method is a consulting firm that helps companies recruit and retain employees through mentorship. (The Mentor Method/Facebook)
The Mentor Method, founded by Janice Omadeke, has been featured by Forbes and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its multi-step method of promoting employee retention and fulfillment. Omadeke has also won Capital Factory's $100k Female Founder competition award.
The company focuses on inclusivity, closing opportunity gaps and building talent through its mentorship method, which involves a matching algorithm that brings employees and mentors quickly together. The Mentor Method has been used by high-profile programs including the Department of Education and Glassdoor.
Omadeke said the startup will use its fund to create jobs, including a Product Coordinator, and boost an employee benefits package.
"The Google for Startups Black Founders Fund will help us scale faster and address the core needs of companies seeking to retain their employees," Omadeke said.
Mbiyimoh Ghogomu- Tradeblock
Now a company used by tens of thousands, Tradeblock had humble beginnings—it was once just an Instagram page for sneakerheads.
Founder Mbiyimoh Ghogomu teamed up with childhood friends Tony Malveaux and Darren Smith to transform the page throughout the pandemic and create a network for sneaker lovers to enjoy. With their motto "Kicks as Currency," sneakerheads can trade sneakers without ever touching their piggy bank.
For Ghogomu, the company and Black Starters fund are both about one thing-fostering community.
"Getting recognized by Google as part of the Black Founders Fund is a game-changer for us," Ghogomu said. "My co-founders and team have been working really hard to disrupt the sneaker x tech space and inspire community building. The funds, relationships and overall support that Tradeblock is gaining will take us to the next level."
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A member of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) contacted council members asking for their home addresses despite a charter provision prohibiting the ICRC from considering such information in its mapping process, according to emails obtained by the Bulldog through a public information request.
Four council members or their staffers replied providing home addresses: Alison Alter, Paige Ellis, Mackenzie Kelly, and Leslie Pool, according to the emails dated August 9th to Aug. 17.
Austinites will once again be able to take a nonstop flight to London as Austin-Bergstrom International Airport resumes transatlantic travel this fall.
Starting Oct. 13, British Airways will offer its direct flight from ABIA to London-Heathrow Airport three times a week on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The airline, which has been operating in Austin since 2013, had halted service at the start of the pandemic over a year ago.
"We can't wait to welcome our customers back on board our Austin flights and we are honored to be playing our part in reuniting families and friends with their loved ones after such a long time apart," said Marie Hilditch, British Airways' head of North America sales.
Safety protocols the airline is taking include:
- social distancing measures
- wearing of facemasks
- providing hand sanitizer stations
- cleaning all surfaces after every flight
- fully recycling the air once every two to three minutes through HEPA filters, which remove microscopic bacteria and virus clusters with over 99.9% efficiency
The announcement comes as COVID-19 testing requirements to enter the UK are scheduled to stop on Oct. 4. for vaccinated Americans.
Additionally, a Monday White House announcement allows fully vaccinated international travelers to enter the U.S. starting in early November with proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The ban, which was implemented in 2020, restricted travelers from a number of European countries, Iran and China throughout the pandemic.