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! #JuneTeenth2021pic.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#LISTOSpic.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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🗓 All weekend
Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities
All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park
This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.
6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.
10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park
Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.
Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.
11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway
Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.
As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.
“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”
Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.
“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”
Actually, a purr-fect idea.
Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.
At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”
Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.
“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”
Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.
“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”
Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.
“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”
Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.
“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”
And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.
“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”
Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.
“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”