Austin FC can't fall further in their conference's standings, but their pride still took a hit as they lost 3-0 to the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday.
Just days after their triumphant win on Sunday, head coach Josh Wolff made seven lineup changes for the road match, including a rare swap of keeper Brad Stuver for Andrew Tarbell. Paired with a controversial penalty kick call (or lack thereof), the club could never regain their footing as Colorado scored twice in two minutes of play near the half to win the match.
For Wolff, the substitutions came down to resting top players in a three-game stretch across seven games. Still, Wolff said he made mistakes in his lineup strategy.
"The chemistry that they've had playing together...(is) certainly needed," Wolff said. "Obviously there's familiarity, and when we made the changes that I got completely wrong, too many changes disrupted our ability to play."
In a game that mirrored the club's 2-0 loss to FC Dallas, head coach Josh Wolff took three of their club's top scorers out of the entire lineup. Three players- including Moussa Djitte, who scored his first goal with the club on Sunday, Austin's first-ever scorer Diego Fagundez and star transfer Sebastian Driussi- never left Texas.
In their stead was Austinite McKinze Gaines, a striker who made history as the first native Austin resident to score for the club just 10 minutes into his first match on Sunday. Gaines proved to be the club's most dangerous asset through the first half and used his speed to nearly score in the 36th minute. Gaines was knocked by a Rapids defender just inside the box, a move that warranted a penalty kick.
But the PK call would never come, shocking Austin FC announcers and outraging Wolff and the team.
"It's a difficult decision that we've got to live with," Wolff said. "It's not a penalty, not a red and I'm sure we'll get an apology, but that's life."
A flustered Austin FC took their first hit when the Rapids' Jonathan Lewis scored on a header that deflected off Austin's Nick Lima before bouncing in goal just seconds before halftime.
Tarbell, who earned his first start in the match, made his first error as he passed to a Rapids defender less than a minute into the second half. Colorado's Nicolás Mezquida quickly capitalized on the mistake as he completed two touches to double the home team's lead.
An unfortunate match took an even worse turn in the 59th minute as the Rapids' scored on a signature set piece to give Austin their worst deficit in team history.
Marred by yellow cards, more substitutions and a messy end, the Verde and Black left Dick's Sporting Goods Stadium with their first loss on its pitch. But Wolff is confident that the team could still come out of the week with six points after the next road match.
"I told these guys, 'Don't let this have any effect on you,'" Wolff said. "I got this wrong, that's my my responsibility and I screwed that up, (but) let's pick ourselves up quickly and get ready for another good game at home."
The club will look for recovery in a home match against Real Salt Lake in a rare afternoon match at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
67' Austin makes two substitutions
With a 3-0 deficit well into the second half, Austin FC swaps Designated Player Tomas Pochettino for Sebastian Berhalter and McKinze Gaines for Rodney Redes. Wolff appears to be resting his players up at this point by giving his last star players a break.
59' Colorado goes up 3-0
Auston > Austin pic.twitter.com/KAuONb2qsK— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) September 30, 2021
Austin's performance on the road has taken a nosedive after Colorado capitalized on their signature set pieces to bounce in a tricky header for their third goal of the night.
With seven lineup changes from Sunday's win, many fans are comparing the match to the 2-0 FC Dallas loss that also saw head coach Josh Wolff bench three of the team's top scorers. The club is now stuck doing damage control as they fight to end the match with any goals to their name.
46' Colorado doubles the lead
Just seconds before the first half ended, Colorado scored, and seconds into the second half, they scored once more. After a solid first half, Andrew Tarbell miscalculated a pass that rolled straight to the Rapids' Nicolás Mezquida.
Mezquida took no hesitation as he completed two touches before smoothly shooting into the bottom right corner of goal.
It's not going to be a deja vu moment for Austin FC's last road match against the Rapids, but Wolff has placed Dominguez into play in place of defender Manny Perez. If Dominguez starts a pattern at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, it could mean Austin comes away with at least a draw tonight.
45+ Colorado scores
A frustrating half for Austin FC ended even further out of their favor as the Rapids' Jonathan Lewis scored off of a deflection from Austin FC defender Nick Lima's leg in a corner kick in the final minutes of the first half.
The close-up header nixes Andrew Tarbell's chance at a clean sheet at no fault of his own as Austin leaves the pitch to regroup.
In his last match at Dick's Sporting Goods Field, Cecilio Dominguez was the proved a vital weapon for the team as he scored twice to transform the match from a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 win.With no Driussi, Djitte or Fagundez, Dominguez may be the club's final weapon.
36' Controversial call keeps Gaines without a PK
A few minutes after Austinite McKinze Gaines became the first Austinite to nab a yellow card with the club, he attempted to double his goals with Austin with an aggressive drive up the field.
Gaines is roughly stopped by the Rapids' defense in the box. Though it appears through video replay that a penalty kick was deserved, the referees make no call in Austin FC's favor. Austin commentators Adrian Healey and Michael Lahoud are stumped at the call (or lack thereof) and head coach Josh Wolff is outraged.
Austin FC is now working to keep their composure after what appears to be another unlucky call.
30' Tarbell gets first saves
Tarbell with some good saves this half, thoughts on him ? pic.twitter.com/PGt5KsqB84— WeAreAustinTV (@WeAreAustinTV) September 30, 2021
Andrew Tarbell may not have minutes behind him, but he's playing like a man who's started before this season as he nabs two key saves in the half to keep Colorado at bay. The Rapids are dominating the stat board-they've got 70% possession, six shots and two shots on goal. Meanwhile, Austin has one shot and is struggling to gain any control in the match.
Lots of surprises here: Tarbell gets his first start over Stuver, Perez in for Cascante. Gaines gets his first start. Dominguez, Djitte and Driussi not in that starting XI. No clue how this will go https://t.co/atmAXdA4aD— Claire (@partain_claire) September 30, 2021
Instead of sticking to Sunday's game-winning lineup, Wolff has scratched some heads by cutting scorers Moussa Djitte, Diego Fagundez and Sebastian Driussi out of the bench and starting XI. According to reporter Jorge Itturalde, none of the game-scoring trio even made their way to Colorado. Cecilio Dominguez, a usual starter, is also out of the starting XI but was named to the bench.
In their stead is McKinze Gaines, the team's first native Austinite who scored less than 10 minutes into his first start on Sunday. Gaines will be joined by Jon Gallagher and Jared Stroud.
Captain Alex Ring is back as anchor in the midfield, but center back Julio Cascante has been replaced by Manny Perez, a young player who usually plays up front. Perhaps most surprising is Austin's choice to bench keeper Brad Stuver for the first time this season in the stead of Andrew Tarbell.
It's a confusing choice after Sunday's game, but perhaps Wolff has a trick up his sleeve.
Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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