Austin FC has been through the ringer for their first season: a seven-week stretch on the road to kick off, one goal in seven games, and a slew of injuries that left half of the club's starters off the pitch at one point.
Here's a quick look at who's on, who's off and who's been injured on the Austin FC roster to date.
Jon Gallagher, forward: unknown foot injury
The same foot that kicked in Austin FC's first home goal could keep forward Jon Gallagher out of the next few practices or matches.
Gallagher said he downed some Ibuprofen just before he scored the first goal at Q2 Stadium. By the end of the first half, Gallagher said he was "pretty useless," and he was seen on crutches around halftime, though he was walking regularly as time went on.
Gallagher said he's unsure on the verdict of the injury.
"I don't know the extent of it. Hopefully it's not too bad," Gallagher said after the match. "Mentally, it's a bittersweet night because I don't know how bad it is."
Danny Hoesen, striker: out indefinitely on hip injury
Hoesen has been out for several matches in a row but may recover by the end of the season. (Danny Hoesen/Instagram)
Fans were dismayed when Head Coach Josh Wolff announced that Hoesen, who had been the offensive frontman at the beginning of the season, would be out for the season on a hip injury.
Luckily, Sporting Director Claudio Reyna clarified a day later and said Hoesen is progressing well after surgery and could be back sooner. "We're still hopeful that he could recover in time for the later games in the year," Reyna said.
The club has made a few moves to help out the striker position, though Reyna said they were looking to sign new forwards during the summer transfer window regardless. The club signed 21-year-old Moussa Djitté from Grenoble in the French Ligue 2 on Monday, and Reyna said their third Designated Player slot is still open.
Nick Lima, right back: pulled hamstring
Nick Lima is out indefinitely after pulling a hamstring against Minnesota United. (Austin FC/Twitter)
While Ring (right ankle) and Besler (right foot) recovered just in time to help shut out the Columbus Crew on Sunday, Wolff said Lima will be out "for a little while" as his pulled hamstring heals.
In his stead is Hector Jimenez, who Wolff said is the only true right back they have left in a press conference after the Minnesota match. Jimenez, who suffered an injury himself in his first start of the season in May, has helped the club to their second shutout at Q2.
Aaron Schoenfield, forward: left knee
Aaron Schoenfield has yet to debut with the club due to injuries. (Aaron Schoenfield/Instagram)
Aaron Schoenfield, another scoring option for the club has yet to make his debut with Austin FC after a "setback" with his left knee. Wolff said that "it'll still be a good ways" before Schoenfield can hit the pitch for the first time, furthering a need for new signees up top.
Ulises Segura, midfielder: left knee
Segura's debut has yet to be determined this season as well after the midfielder underwent knee surgery near the start of the season. Both he and Schoenfield have been out for the entire season to date on left knee injuries.
Ben Sweat, left back: ACL tear
Starting left back Ben Sweat suffered one of the first matchday injuries with the club, and the verdict was an athlete's worst nightmare. With an ACL tear, Sweat is looking at a long path to recovery, though he's already undergone surgery and has been spotted doing exercises on his injured knee.
Sweat's injury propelled new signee Žan Kolmanič into the starting XI just after flying in from his former team NK Maribor in Slovenia. Wolff has praised the 21-year-old Kolmanič for his fitness and eagerness on the ball, but Sweat will still be welcomed with open arms the next time he hits the pitch.
While a five-man injury list may not be ideal, Austin has seen some quick recoveries so far: Besler and Ring are back in tip-top shape, No. 1 SuperDraft pick Daniel Pereira has returned after a stint on the bench, Jhohan Romana is once again available at center back, and Rodney Redes, who suffered a "ding" to his knee, has seemingly fully recovered.
The club will need all hands on deck as they attempt to combat the scoreless "curse" (we're the only ones calling it that) at Q2 Stadium.
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Austinites love their pets and even more, they love to name them Charlie and Luna, according to the latest report.
The two names topped both top male and female categories for dogs and cats in the annual end-of-year report from Rover, a site for dog care. While the names Charlie and Luna topped the Austin lists, they came in second nationally. Luna goes on another year of reigning, while Charlie climbed up to the top spot this year.
Top dog names of 2021 in Austin
Top cat names of 2021 in Austin
But that's not to say the year's events and other factors didn't have an impact on how people named their furry friends. Here are some notable trends seen this year in Austin pet names.
- Food-inspired names: Hershey is up 1,030% for dogs, while Sushi is up 944% and Bean is up 544% for cats.
- Alcohol-inspired names: Tequila is up 630% and Merlot is up 330% for dogs.
- Olympics: Manny, after Puerto Rican skateboarder Manny Santiago, is up 730% for dogs. Amber, inspired by U.S. Women’s Skeet Shooting Gold Medalist Amber English, is up 730%.
- Pop-culture: Dogs named Greta are trending up 930%, which could be inspired by rock band, Greta Van Fleet.
- COVID: For the first time in Austin, the dog names Rona and Zoom made the list.
- Austin weather: Storm is the most popular new-to-the-list name for cats. Snow was also new to the list.
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Looks like Austin FC is cleaning house—and they're taking a few Verde faves out ahead of the 2022 season.
Following the retirement of defender Matt Besler, the club's original 33-man roster was trimmed to 22 in roster changes announced Tuesday.
(From top left) Players Emmanuel Perez, Jared Stroud, Ben Sweat, Aaron Schoenfield, Brady Scott, Aedan Stanley, Kekuta Manneh and Sebastian Berhalter will not be with Austin FC for the 2022 season. (mlssoccer.com)
Austin FC declined its contract options for six players, including:
- Kekuta Manneh
- Aaron Schoenfeld
- Brady Scott
- Aedan Stanley
- Jared Stroud
- Ben Sweat
Stroud became an early fan favorite for the team after helping teammate Diego Fagundez to the team's first goal in April, racking up a second assist just one match later with another Fagundez goal. After a few months of limited appearances, Stroud started once again in November and attempted his first MLS goal, but no dice.
Manneh, a forward, showed promise as Austin FC's first Austinite: a Gambia native, Manneh played soccer in the Texas capital while in high school and early in his professional career. Manneh showed energy on the pitch but never saw his efforts translate to the stat board.
By the start of the season, Sweat had secured a starting spot as left back for Austin FC but tore his ACL in the Colorado Rapids match on April 17, putting him off the pitch for the remainder of the season.
Both under 23, Stanley and Scott saw few appearances to the Verde pitch. In May, Scott went on loan to play as goalkeeper for USL Championship side Memphis 901. Schoenfield, a 31-year-old forward, has played briefly for various MLS and USL teams as well as professional teams in Israel.
Austin FC also announced that they would not exercise the transfer options for Sebastian Berhalter and Emmanuel Perez, both of whom spent the 2021 season in Verde on loan.
Berhalter, the son of U.S. Men's National Team Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, filled some big shoes in key moments of the season as central midfielder. At just 20, Berhalter started five times in the key position for Captain Alex Ring. Perez made four starts as forward for Austin FC.
(From left) Captain Alex Ring, Will Pulisic and Freddy Kleemann all had their contracts renewed with Austin FC for the 2022 season.
It wasn't all doom and gloom. The club held on to the following for the 2022 season:
- Captain Ring
- Freddy Kleemann
- Will Pulisic
Ring, known as one of the top defensive midfielders in the league, had a rocky but rewarding road as Austin FC's captain in their inaugural season. Despite two red cards that rendered him out of two key matches, Ring tallied four goals and three assists as he led the team throughout the season, earning MLS Team of the Week honors multiple times.
At 22, Kleemann made just three appearances in central midfield for Austin FC but showed potential toward the end of the season. Pulisic wasn't able to start due to fellow goalkeeper Brad Stuver's standout success, but the cousin of Chelsea standout Christian Pulisic has plenty of years left in the tank.
Austin FC now has three goalkeepers, six defenders, seven midfielders and six forwards as the team's brief offseason continues. After the retirement of legendary central midfielder Matt Besler, the team will need to make strong signing options in the back and midfield positions in the MLS SuperDraft and transfer seasons before their first match against FC Cincinnati on Saturday, February 26.
But don't worry about fan favorites Fagundez, Sebastian Driussi or Stuver: all 22 other players are still firmly rooted in place for the upcoming season.
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Just as the world takes a breath from the Delta variant-induced third COVID surge that pushed hospitals past capacity this summer, a new variant—the omicron—is forcing countries around the world to once again consider shutting their doors.
It's too early to tell whether the variant will have the devastating effects of the Delta variant, the Mu variant—which accounted for 3% of U.S. cases before dropping off almost entirely by October—or somewhere in between. But as omicron continues to rise sharply in all provinces of South Africa, the Biden administration is reintroducing some travel restrictions that went into effect Monday.
As the variant spreads to countries around the world, including Canada, the Netherlands and Hong Kong, the World Health Organization declared omicron a "variant of concern"—though some are calling the move premature.
What is omicron?
The omicron variant, B.1.1.529, is now under strict watch from the WHO after quickly spreading throughout Southern Africa.
It's genetically different from the Alpha and Delta variants and has up to 30 mutations in its genetic code, leading some to worry that the risk of retransmission from those who have already had COVID could be high. The strain's mutations could also aid omicron in beating out other strains and spreading more quickly to hosts.
Omicron is the latest version of the coronavirus to cause concern. Here’s what we know about where it’s spread so far and what makes it different than other variants that came before. https://t.co/ncciXnIuw9
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 29, 2021
It appears to be doing the trick. While an Associated Press report found that case numbers in South Africa are still well below other pandemic peaks—3,220 new cases were reported in South Africa on Saturday— up to 90% of new cases in the South African province of Gauteng are omicron.
The strain's effects seem to be mild so far, and hospitals haven't been overburdened yet, though hospitalizations are rising.
And doctors worry that the full extent of the variant hasn't been realized. Vaccine hesitancy is strong among South Africa's youngest population—22% of those aged 18 to 34 are vaccinated—and most of those infected with COVID have been in those younger age groups. Doctors worry that older age groups will be more adversely affected.
And while experts in the country expected a fourth surge and possible variant, the omicron still came as a "shock" as it quickly spread to all nine South African provinces and other continents. It's now the first strain labeled as a "variant of concern" since the Delta variant.
It's unclear if the variant is more immune to vaccines, although some signs indicate that it's a possibility.
Where has it been detected?
Cases of the Covid omicron variant have appeared in more than a dozen countries as of Monday. https://t.co/2bPapBIYK2 pic.twitter.com/idnQ6LjIfH
— NBC News Graphics (@NBCNewsGraphics) November 29, 2021
The omicron strain still hasn't been detected in dozens of countries, and it's far from the first strain to make a mark since Delta. But it's coincided with a quick uptick in cases in South Africa, where it was originally found, and became the dominant strain in Pretoria, a city of around 750,000, in just a few weeks.
Omicron is now present in nearby Botswana and has jumped on board flights to Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. Hong Kong has detected three cases, while 10 European nations including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Germany have found a total of 45 cases. Canada has detected three cases, and none have yet been found in the United States.
What has been done?
Against the wishes of both South Africa and the WHO, several countries have decided to once again shut their doors.
After detecting an omicron case, Israel decided to bar entry to foreigners, while Morocco suspended incoming international air travel for two weeks. Dozens of countries are restricting travel from Southern Africa to South Africa's chagrin—the government said travel restrictions are “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.”
The WHO also called for borders to remain open as closing borders appears to have a limited effect on the spread of variants, and many countries are hesitant to clamp down on restrictions that have limited its citizens for so long.
The United States said in a statement Friday that it would restrict travel from eight southern African countries except for citizens and permanent U.S. residents who test negative for the virus.
White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that it's "too early to say" whether tightened COVID restrictions will be needed to combat omicron but that citizens must be ready to do “anything and everything” to prevent its spread.
When will we know more?
The WHO said it will take around two weeks to gauge the full effects of omicron, from its ability to evade vaccines to its contagiousness.
For now, countries have once again urged their citizens to get vaccinated. Some vaccine companies have already spoken about the strain, including Moderna, which said Sunday that a new vaccine that protects against the variant could be released in early 2022 if needed.
For now, Fauci said that the country must "prepare for the worst" just in case omicron becomes the culprit of yet another surge.
“Inevitably, it will be here. The question is will we be prepared for it? If and when, and it’s going to be when, it comes here hopefully we will be ready for it,” Fauci said.
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