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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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Flashing back to early-pandemic times, hospitals are once again at critical capacity and pleading with residents to do what couldn't be done during the first wave: get vaccinated.
ICU capacity in the 11 county Trauma Service Region of 2.3 million people is fluctuating at 16 staffed beds.
In a statement on behalf of Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's Healthcare, a spokesperson said that hospitals are asking residents to "help us and each other" by getting vaccinated and continuing to utilize safety practices to slow the spread of the virus.
According to the statement, a "longstanding" nurse staffing challenge combined with the recent COVID-19 spike is putting "extraordinary pressure" on hospital systems.
Along with the unmitigated spread of the virus in unvaccinated, the more contagious Delta variant is also to blame for the spike in cases. The seven-day moving average of COVID cases in the Austin area is 47, just three cases away from triggering Stage 5 guidelines. "We cannot emphasize strongly enough the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant," the statement said.
Currently, Austin area hospital systems have 325 people who are hospitalized with COVID-19, 109 in ICUs and 62 on ventilators.
Local hospitals have a "surge plan" that includes utilization of "all available patient care space and employees within our hospitals and in other settings" that will go into effect when capacity is hit, according to the statement.
The hospitals are working on sourcing supplemental staff and emphasized that emergency care will still be available but it may involve patient transfers "in order to provide the most appropriate care."
Healthcare systems have hit this threshold previously during the pandemic: the city held an alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center from January to March of this year.
"Our responsibility during this pandemic continues to be balancing our readiness to care for patients with COVID-19, while making sure patients who depend on our hospitals receive needed and timely care," the statement said. "We do not want to see necessary non-COVID care delayed as it was during the early stages of the pandemic."
Austin is under Stage 4 guidelines, which asks—but cannot enforce under Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order—that vaccinated individuals mask in all situations and unvaccinated individuals mask, while only leaving their homes if essential.
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The 2020(1?) Olympics have induced plenty of late nights and early mornings for millions of Americans as they watch the world's best leap, flip and dive through the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Over two dozen athletes with Austin ties and many more from Texas are making headlines for their contributions to the Games, including 17-year-old gold medal swimmer Lydia Jacoby and legendary softball pitcher Cat Osterman.
So far, Austin athletes have racked up a gold and two silvers for Team USA. Some have more history-making opportunities ahead of them in the Games; others are soon headed home early with no medal but an Olympic title nonetheless. Team USA is in third place overall and has accumulated 40 medals, the second-most behind China, at this year's Games.
We're one week into the Games. Here's a quick look at the biggest headlines in this year's controversial competition and how athletes with Austin ties stacked up.
The Olympics' strangest Games to date? A quick rundown
This year's Games have been an outlier for several reasons. Many athletes have been impacted by COVID, with some saying that the Olympics maybe shouldn't have happened at all.
Millions of fans are getting an insider's view of the Olympics thanks to TikTok. U.S. women's rugby sevens star Ilona Maher helped viewership of her sport spike after her witty videos, including a clip where the team attempts to break the Olympic Village's cardboard beds.
The once-delayed Games have also seen upsets like no other, with many U.S.-dominated sports being championed by the most unlikely of teams.
In gymnastics, Texas native and world-renowned gymnast Simone Biles stepped out of the team competition left the team final and the individual all-around due to what is known as the "twisties," a sort of mind-and-body disconnect that could result in life-threatening injuries. Biles isn't sure if she'll compete in individual events next week, but her team is still doing well without their leader: the U.S. won silver as a team and Suni Lee was the individual gold medal winner.
A condom was used to repair the canoe of world-renowned Australian canoeist Jessica Fox. Meanwhile, a crash put Rio gold medalist Connor Fields in the hospital after a dangerous crash involving six riders on the BMX track.
Things got awkward in a post-swimming press conference when Team USA silver medalist Ryan Murphy and British bronze medalist Luke Greenbank said that the Games are "probably not clean," alluding to Russia's state-sponsored doping campaign that forced them to switch names to the Russian Olympic Committee. ROC competitor Evgeny Rylov was the gold medalist in the event.
Austin athletes have taken a gold and two silvers so far in the Games, with two swimming medals and a silver softball title.
Upcoming UT freshman Lydia Jacoby earned her first gold medal as a 17-year-old in the women's 100m. The Alaska native is the first of her state to win a swimming gold medal, and she completed the feat despite not having an Olympic-size swimming pool to train with.
Longhorn Erica Sullivan made it to the podium as well with a silver medal in the women's 1500m freestyle, finishing just behind U.S. star Katie Ledecky.
Legendary UT alum Cat Osterman's decorated Olympic run is up. The 38-year-old lefthanded pitcher left her final Olympics with a bittersweet silver medal after home team Japan secured the gold in the women's softball final. The loss was the first time the two had seen each other since Japan first took the gold from Team USA in 2008, the last time softball had been in the Olympics. Osterman's next move is off the pitcher's mound; the current assistant coach at Texas State University hopes to work for a nonprofit in Austin after she officially retires on September 27.
Those who went home
While every Olympian wants to go home with that precious metal, even making it to the world's biggest competition is a feat on its own. Here are the Austin athletes who didn't quite make it to the podium:
- Longhorn swimmer Townley Haas was 5th in the semifinals of the men's 200m freestyle and did not advance.
- Despite being medal favorites, Longhorn Gia Doonan and her women's eights crew just missed the mark with a fourth place finish in Tokyo after many members recovered from COVID.
- Austinite Alison Gibson and partner Krysta Parmer finished eighth in the women's 3m synchronized diving competition.
- Haas and fellow UT alum Drew Kibler helped Team USA to a fourth-place finish in the men's 4x200m swimming freestyle.
- Caspar Corbeau, a Longhorn swimming for the Netherlands, finished 7th in his opening heat for the men's 100m and 200m swimming freestyle.
- Remedy Rule, a Longhorn swimming for the Philippines, finished eighth in the semifinal for the women's 200m butterfly.
- Anna Elendt, a UT swimmer competing for Team Germany, finished 7th in the semifinals of the women's 100m freestyle and was sixth in the prelims as part of the 4x100 medley relay.
What's to come
Sugar Land native and standout Simone Manuel helped Team USA to set a single-day record for medals won on Sunday with a bronze in the 4x100 freestyle relay. Fellow Team USA star Caeleb Dressel established his dominance with a first-place finish in the men's 100-meter freestyle on Thursday and set an Olympic record in the prelims of the 100m butterfly after helping the men's 4x100m freestyle earlier in the week.
Coming up, former Longhorn Joseph Schooling, who beat Michael Phelps in the Rio Olympics, will compete in the men's 100m butterfly final alongside Dressel on Saturday.
Hailey Hernandez, a Texan diver who is coming to UT in the fall, was the youngest competitor to advance to the semifinal round of the women's 3m springboard competition early Saturday morning.
Track and field
UT alum Teahna Daniels has advanced to the women's 100m semifinals alongside teammates Javianne Oliver and Jenna Prandini after a heat-winning time of 11.04 seconds. Daniels and crew will look to establish themselves as the world's fastest women in the semifinals at 6:15 a.m. followed by the finals at 8:50 a.m.
The women's 100m trio were some of the first to hit the track on Thursday. Team USA DQ'd in the 4x400m mixed race on Thursday, squandering veteran Alyson Felix's quest for another medal. Ethiopia and Uganda are the only current medal-winners for the sport, but UT alum Melissa Gonzalez will look to change that on Saturday morning as she competes in the women's 400m hurdles. Fellow Longhorn Pedra Seymour will begin her fight to beat her 6th place finish in Rio as she runs in the prelims for the women's 100m hurdles for Team Bahamas on Saturday, while men's long jumper Steffin McCarter will look to qualify in the men's long jump competition that afternoon.
The world's fastest men will begin competition Saturday morning as well, with Team USA's Trayvon Bromell as the favorite to get the gold.
Other UT track stars including world-record shot putter Ryan Crouser (Thursday), Team Jamaica 4x400m runner Stacey-Ann Williams (Thursday), and long jumper Tara Davis (Sunday) will hit the track next week.
Win or go home AND WE’RE NOT GOING HOME YET 😤 pic.twitter.com/qdK7Aa7c4s— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) July 30, 2021
Team USA advanced to the semifinals in penalty kicks in an adrenaline-pumping match early Friday morning. Next, they'll play Canada in the semifinals to compete for that top spot and avenge their loss in Rio as they fight for the finals. On Team Canada's Olympic team is UT midfielder Julia Grosso, who has helped her team to a win and three draws thus far.
Kevin Durant and team have had a rocky start to the Olympics, leaving many to wonder if their No. 1 status is in jeopardy. The team suffered their first Olympic loss since 2004 in a 83-76 upset against France. They bounced back with an easy win against Iran, though the win was expected against a team with no NBA players in their roster. Next up is the Czech Republic, a team with two NBA talents that the U.S. is expecting to smother at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
The USA Women's basketball team picks up their first W 🚨— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 27, 2021
USA takes down Nigeria, 81-72
A'ja Wilson (Olympic debut): 19 PTS | 13 REB pic.twitter.com/cRwnEgAzhn
The U.S. women's basketball team, including UT alum Ariel Atkins, have shakily continued their world dominance in Tokyo. The team is 2-0 in Group B after an 81-72 defeat over Nigeria and 86-69 victory over Japan. Atkins celebrated her birthday on the same day as the Japan defeat.
Next up, the team will look to increase their winning margins as they take on France at 12:40 a.m. on Monday.
Longhorn middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu and the Team USA volleyball team are fighting hard for their first gold medal in 57 years. The team has already swept defending gold medalists China and was undefeated in group play with wins over Argentina and Turkey as they head to the quarterfinals starting Wednesday, They'll look to defeat the ROC and Italy in their final group rounds along the way.
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