Hundreds of Austin FC fans took their first Texas trip to FC Dallas on Saturday, hoping for another Lone Star rivalry win and a successful debut from new star signee Sebastian Driussi. Instead, a mysterious starting lineup switch from Josh Wolff and "play from the back mindset left Austin scoreless again as they lost 2-0 to the home team.
Austin is now 1-1 for matches in the Texas Derby, which tallies MLS wins between Texan teams, after a 3-2 victory over Houston Dynamo on Wednesday.
Wolff's new lineup saw all three Designated Players on the bench for the first time this season. Even Tomas Pochettino, who scored two of Austin's three goals on Wednesday and was voted Austin FC's first MLS Player of the Week honors, joined DP Cecilio Dominguez and Driussi on the sidelines as Austin's younger players took the stage. The move garnered plenty of criticism from even diehard Austin FC fans.
I respect your infinite wisdom and I get the devil's advocate perspective here, but this is inexcusable. It's a rivalry. He talks every press conference about how great the fans are and then shows no respect for a game that means so much to us. We could win and I'd still be mad.
— Chris Welhausen (@chriswelhausen) August 8, 2021
The club developed a "play from the back" mindset as veterans Matt Besler, Hector Jimenez and Julio Cascante were met with rare starters Jhohan Romana and Aedan Stanley. Diego Fagundez was left without much backup in the front of the pitch alongside newbie Manny Perez, while midfield leader Alex Ring was met with Daniel Pereira in midfield for the first time since a weekslong injury hiatus.
While Austin appeared to maintain control and possession in the first half despite Wolff's head-scratching lineup, the flaws of Wolff's mysterious plan were made evident immediately as the second half whistle blew.
Austin FC quickly lost control as the second half began, conceding a goal from Dallas' Ryan Hollingshead in the 50th minute. Immediately after, starters Nick Lima, Dominguez, Pochettino and Gallagher moved to the end line to get subbed in alongside Driussi.
The dream team entered the pitch ten minutes later, but Dallas capitalized on the transition as the new subs fought to find their footing. In the 63rd minute, Dallas' Ferreira doubled the lead for the home team.
Ferreira slots it home! That's 2-0 for @FCDallas! #DALvATX pic.twitter.com/Ej8hAR8a57
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 8, 2021
The team once again returned to scorelessness after their streak was unbroken Wednesday and have been shut out for nine of their last 12 matches.
Wolff attributed health reasons to the benching of Pochettino and Dominguez. Pochettino has played some of the most minutes for the team, Wolff said, while Dominguez has been "off" for the past few weeks.
Despite the loss, Austin FC fans flooded Toyota Stadium with the ferocity of a home match, sticking out like a sore thumb in Verde as they sang, danced and banged their drums over the home crowd.
Austin fans stick out like a sore thumb, I love it😂 pic.twitter.com/vpE8rc9III
— Claire (@partain_claire) August 8, 2021
To the hundreds of fans who came to Frisco with the hopes of seeing starters on the pitch for the rivalry match, Wolff said he and the team will "take the criticism" for the rivalry loss.
"We also have to make decisions based on the health of our players (and) the long term goals," Wolff said. "Obviously a different score would have been better...but we gave up a goal, it was a careless mistake, and we were punished for it."
Next up, the team will hit the road once again to face Real Salt Lake for the first time at 9 p.m. on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
63' Dallas doubles the lead
Before Driussi and crew begin to get their footing, Dallas' Ferreira capitalizes on the transition and doubles the lead for the home team. Austin, normally a possession-heavy team, has split possession half-and-half and is losing in shots (11-7) and shots on goal (5-2).
Austin gave too many opportunities and fast breaks to FC Dallas, and the repercussions of Wolff's mysterious plan have finally revealed themselves on the pitch. Th club will look to use their newfound confidence in Driussi, Pochettino and Dominguez and inject some energy if they hope to close out the second half with three back-to-back goals.
62' Driussi makes his debut
62' | Several #AustinFC substitutions.— Austin FC (@AustinFC) August 8, 2021
➡️ Tomás Pochettino
⬅️ Sebastian Berhalter
➡️ Nick Lima
⬅️ Hector Jimenez
➡️ Cecilio Domínguez
⬅️ Matt Besler
➡️ Sebastián Driussi
⬅️ Dani Pereira pic.twitter.com/5KtI9ds4Ml
Austin brings out their three DPs in a powerful substitution in the 62nd minute. Dominguez and Pochettino join Driussi, who is getting his first minutes with his new team. Nick Lima joins the hopeful dream team.
50' Show's over: Austin FC concedes first goal
It's time to bring out the big guns.
Austin FC quickly lost control as the second half begins, conceding a goal from Dallas' Ryan Hollingshead in the 50th minute. Immediately after, starters Nick Lima, Dominguez Pochettino and Gallagher moved to the end line to get subbed in. Driussi is also nearing his first start with the team.
At the half: Austin looks comfortable, but comfortable isn't enough
Regardless of the result, I hope all my friends in the press question Wolff heavily on this lineup. Feels disrespectful to the fans in a game this important. @ChrisBils @LWOSMarkTurner @CravenMike @partain_claire— Chris Welhausen (@chriswelhausen) August 8, 2021
Wolff's first-half lineup drew plenty of criticism from fans as they geared up to play FC Dallas, With star Driussi finally in the lineup, it just seemed cruel to keep fans waiting even longer.
Almost all of the stars were out of the lineup as well: for the first time this season, both Designated Players Tomas Pochettino and Cecilio Dominguez were off the pitch in the first half. In their stead was the capable Fagundez, but with just a young Manny Perez to back him up, the team wasn't able to convert their high possession rate into goals.
The back line looked comfortable despite the new faces, but Stuver was still left defenderless a few times as Dallas' Pepi made moves on goal.
Many fans are wondering why the club would keep out their all-stars in a rivalry match. Wolff may be playing the long game: he could be preparing for an all gas, no brakes moment as he stacks the second half with Driussi's debut and his fellow DP's.
Wolff proved to be either lucky or a mad genius as the first half worked in his favor. Now, the club will look to trample their Texan rivals on their own home turf as they head into the second half.
43' Dallas is saved by the post
Fagundez was stymied by both posts as his free kick hits the top right corner. Fagundez has been the main cog in the team's attacking team thus far, but he's expected to be joined by Dominguez, Driussi and Pochettino after the half.
33' Besler grabs a header
Brad Stuver has had plenty of one-on-one run-ins with FC Dallas attackers, specifically Ricardo Pepi, and he's stayed alive so far. In the 33rd minute, center back Matt Besler ensures it stays that way as he dives for a header to keep the ball out of goal. This game has seen a calmer defense and balanced midfield with the help of Pereira so far.
8' Perez tries for his first Austin goal
We're not backing down. pic.twitter.com/uSSseBYmIl— Austin FC (@AustinFC) August 8, 2021
Austin FC's Manny Perez breaks away early from the home team and makes a tight shot on goal, but Dallas' Jimmy Maurer is able to save the close-up shot from the center of goal.
The Verde wave drowns out Dallas noise
Austin fans stick out like a sore thumb, I love it😂 pic.twitter.com/vpE8rc9III— Claire (@partain_claire) August 8, 2021
Armed with drums, banners and their own voices, hundreds of Austin FC fans could clearly be heard over home team supporters as they chanted for their team. FC Dallas was worried enough to stage a Dallas Stars night—encouraging fans to wear the city's green-and-black hockey team jerseys—so the invasion wouldn't be as obvious.
It seems the club either retracted their statement or fans didn't get the memo: very few Dallas fans are donned in Stars regalia tonight, and Verde fans stick out from the red of the crowd.
Austin FC starting lineup
Wolff has a vision for tonight's match, and no one else seems to quite understand it. Pochettino, who scored two of three goals Wednesday night, is on the bench to start, while rare starters Manny Perez, Jhohan Romana, and Aedan Stanley are back in. Daniel Pereira is in the starting lineup after several weeks' absence and a short appearance on Wednesday; he's been part of the starting XI for every Austin FC win this season.
Meanwhile, the long-awaited Driussi is still on the bench after finishing quarantine this week. Fans will have to wait just a bit longer for the star striker's debut on the pitch.
Bucee's goes Verde
After a long stretch at home, Austin FC fans did what they knew best prior to the Dallas match. After piling into buses and caravans on the way up I-35, the crew invaded a Bucee's, marched on Frisco near Toyota Stadium and took up plenty of real estate in a corner of the stadium.
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After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.