It's been a week since newcomer Sebastian Driussi's less-than-triumphant debut, when strange lineup choices by Austin FC Head Coach Josh Wolff resulted in a 2-0 loss to Texas rival FC Dallas.
Since then, Wolff criticism has intensified as fans question his decision to rest Driussi, DP Cecilio Dominguez and midfielder Tomas Pochettino well into the second half as the team continues to grapple with scorelessness. Austin has been shut out of nine of their last 12 matches.
Tasked with his first-ever head coaching job and the burdens of building an expansion team, Wolff and staff have made some unmistakable mishaps in the team's first season. On the flip side, however, the team's three signees have finally made it into town, and Driussi could get his first start with the team as they gear up for their first match at Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
What to expect
On the road and at home, we always feel your support. We love y'all. 💚🖤 pic.twitter.com/hHqdHkExHc— Austin FC (@AustinFC) August 8, 2021
Austin is now 12th in the Western Conference after a few weeks at the bottom of the standings. Their next opponent, Real Salt Lake, currently sits just below playoff berth at eighth in the conference.
Salt Lake has been winless since July 7, when they pulled off a triumphant 4-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. The club is led in attacks by midfielder Damir Kreilach, who has scored eight goals for the team, and Albert Rusnak, who helped the team out of their scoring drought in their 3-2 loss to the Portland Timbers.
With just 13 goals in the season, Austin has scored the least of any MLS team, and they'll be pitted against Mexican international team keeper David Ochoa as they look to rack up some more points. Still, the team's 3-2 win over Houston on Aug. 4, led by two goals from MLS Player of the Week Tomas Pochettino, could indicate what's to come for Austin's ever-evolving team.
Projected starting lineup
Driussi, the team's most expensive signee to date, was obtained by Austin FC during the summer transfer to alleviate scoring woes. He got in 30ish minutes against FC Dallas, but with a 2-0 deficit, was unable to show his true talents in his first Austin FC match. He'll be expected to start at the top of Austin's lineup this weekend.
Both stars Tomas Pochettino and Cecilio Dominguez were out of the starting lineup as well, entering the pitch in the 62nd minute alongside Driussi. Wolff cited health and rest concerns as his motive for benching the team's top three players, but he's almost guaranteed to not repeat the move after post-match backlash.
Thanks in part to Wolff's admittedly "cautious" roster, Austin FC also has a mostly-healed lineup. Daniel Pereira is back and helping ramp up a better midfield, while Nick Lima has returned to right back. Just McKinze Gaines (forward), Danny Hoesen (forward), Ulises Segura (midfield), and Ben Sweat (left back) are still on the injured roster. Gaines was spotted training on the sidelines in the week before the Salt Lake match.
Meanwhile, Austin is still waiting for the debut of transfers Moussa Djitte, who arrived in Austin this week after a month of slow paperwork moves, and Austin native McKinze Gaines, who signed in August but has been out on injury. Djitte is expected to join the crew in late August, though no date has been specified for either new player.
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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.