Austin FC forked over $13.8 million for its second-year salary budget—a 50% increase from last season, when the club spent the second-least in the league on its players, according to Major League Soccer Players' Association data.
That means three players within its Verde ranks are now bona fide millionaires, and they've got the drip and on-field skills to show it.
Here's a look at the players making a cool milly—or more—with Austin FC:
No. 1—Sebastian Driussi, $2.3 million
Argentinian forward Sebastian Driussi makes more than any other player on the Austin FC roster. (Sebastian Driussi/Instagram) (Austin FC/Twitter)
There's a reason why Sebastian Driussi can be seen whipping into practice in a Lamborghini or decked-out Chevy Black Widow: the Designated Player has made more than any other Austin FC athlete for two seasons in a row.
This year, that salary amounts to $2,332,000 in guaranteed compensation. That's a far cry from Chicago Fire's Sheridan Shaqiri, who will rake in over $8 million this year, and it's less than most club's top-billed player, but still ranks 22nd in the league.
And each dollar is well-earned. Driussi came to the program as a sort of outlier among MLS teams, many of whom have a habit of picking out aging European stars to take the helm of their team. The 26-year-old Argentine was plucked from Russia after four hot-and-cold seasons in the Russian Premier League, coming to the MLS for the first time in the Verde and Black roster.
In a few months, Driussi merged with his new team halfway through its first season and doubled its expected goals. Now, the forward is an MVP contender after spending a few weeks as the team's top goalscorer. He's put down seven goals and two assists for Austin FC and helped the club rise to third in the MLS West.
2. Cecilio Dominguez—$1.7 million
Cecilio Dominguez, Austin FC's original DP, has missed the pitch for six weeks due to possible "verbal and emotional abuse." (Austin FC/Twitter)
Behind Driussi, the next-richest Austin FC player is Cecilio Dominguez, the club's first DP who has spent six weeks away due to off-the-pitch controversy.
Dominguez was wrapped up in an MLS investigation after Austin police were called to his ex-partner's home in early April due to alleged "verbal and emotional abuse." The investigation has since been dropped, but the repercussions of the call linger as fans call for the forward to no longer return to the pitch.
If Austin FC adheres to those fans' wishes and gives up Dominguez in the summer transfer window, the club will free up $1,736,000, or the 35th-highest compensation in the league, in its salary budget.
3. Alex Ring—$1.6 million
Austin FC's Captain Alex Ring mans the midfield for the club. (Austin FC/Twitter)
Coming in at a close third on Austin FC's budget books is Captain Alex Ring, who earned a raise and DP status this season after a year at the lead of head coach Josh Wolff's new system.
Ring now makes $1,640,000 in guaranteed compensation—a number that some have deemed too high after a few stumbles this season. Still, Ring has led the team to first in the MLS West just two years into its existence, and he's racked up two goals and three assists so far this season.
Fans may not know every player, but if they know any, it's almost always bound to be Diego Fagundez. The midfielder is all-in on Verde—from his hustle to his neon green hair—and leads the MLS in assists this season.
But the fan-favorite is far from breaking the bank, earning the ninth-most on the team with a guaranteed salary of $450,000.
Other possible lowballers include Maxi Urruti, who scored four goals in a four-game stretch and earns $661,000, and Brad Stuver, the star goalkeeper who earns just $185,000 in guaranteed salary.
What it means
My MLS Wages treemap compares payrolls across the league and salary disparities within each roster.— Steve Fenn (@StatHunting) May 17, 2022
Thanks @MLSPA for the data.
Check out the interactive @tableaupublic to see previous seasons: https://t.co/F2CMPrmvM1pic.twitter.com/SOIGA5lpHE
This time around, the club's salary budget cashed in at 13th in the league. Although its budget is a far cry from LAFC, which consistently spends more than other clubs and topped the list at $21 million this season, the Verde and Black's big-buck spending seems to be paying off.
By May 2021, Austin FC was second to last in salary spending to kick off its first season. And although they nabbed DP Sebastian Driussi and striker Moussa Djitte in the summer transfer window, the club's frugality may have been felt on the field as they finished second to last on the pitch as well.
Interestingly enough, however, total salary budget turned out to have little to no influence on the MLS' final standings last season:
Now, the club has bolstered its front line with multimillion-dollar signings while adding Ruben Gabrielsen to the backline for a cool $950,000. But it hasn't let go of its original M.O.: unlike clubs like Atlanta and Inter Miami CF which tend to spend big on just a few star players, Austin FC continues to spread its salaries a bit more evenly, with its top salary accounting for 16.6% of its total budget.
What that strategy means for the club is unknown, and salary budgets could end up shaken up after the summer's transfer window. Still, it's hard not to notice the team's drastic improvement after making top-dollar signings.
And while the club's salary budget may not stay the same, the swagger Driussi, Dominguez and Ring get from those million-dollar salaries is forever.
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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.”