Despite a troubling first half, Austin FC held strong to its home fortress as the Verde and Black took their first draw of 2022 in a 1-1 game against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday afternoon.
Echoes of last season's woes haunted the Verde and Black as its hot start appeared to crumble to start the match. But thanks to a second-half goal from Diego Fagundez, the club saw a late spurt of energy to stay alive and stay undefeated at Q2 Stadium.
Here are three takeaways from the match:
1. Austin played its worst half yet—then kicked it into gear
Make no mistake—even with a not-so-troubling scoreline, Austin FC revealed some very worrying signs for much of the match.
Austin FC's new era of quick, snarky passes and hustle plays shone through in the first 10 minutes of play. But that new home-game Verde confidence gave way to clumsy errors, slow reactions and a lack of cohesion for the rest of the first half.
Seattle used that to their advantage, making four scoring attempts and holding the ball hostage to threaten Austin's goal before Seattle's Will Bruin broke through with a close-range tap to score in the 43rd minute of play.
Austin left the first half resembling its near-last place self last season. The Verde back line, which shone in last week's Portland match, struggled to keep up with a pressuring Seattle offense, while striker Moussa Djitte and the rest of the starting offense couldn't quite capitalize on any chances at goal.
But fans who switched on the TV for the second half saw a different story. Austin FC put up a fight in the match, and their 21 shots (eight of which were on target) were stopped time and time again from the near-impenetrable Seattle keeper Stefan Cleveland.
The club's improvement this season was especially seen in Austin's resiliency, head coach Josh Wolff said. The club, which struggled with endurance and a "second-half curse" for much of its first season, bounced back and never stopped attacking, logging 22 crosses and nine corner kicks in the match.
"Right away, I think there's a different mentality, there's better leadership... more character and resolve," Wolff said after the match. "You know you're in a good place when your guys are fighting and competing in training, and there are some fights going on. And that's a sign of a good team."
2. Diego is the drumbeat of the team
For the first time since last September, Diego Fagundez didn't take the pitch as a starter for Austin FC this match.
And it showed—the winger, who was Austin's first goalscorer and has become the unsung hero for the Verde and Black, scored Austin's sole goal of the match in the 73rd minute to change the trajectory of the game.
"It's a physical group, so I wanted to have some sort of presence in there that could get on the end of things and hold things up," Wolff said on subbing out Fagundez and fellow starter Maxi Urruti. "Some verticality and physicality are what we wanted, knowing the game was going to probably slow down a little bit...it's nice to have depth, and those guys came in and performed."
Both Fagundez and fellow starter Urruti injected new energy into the match as they subbed into the match in the 57th minute of play, something Fagundez said they were eager to do from the bench.
"We know that we were hungry to go in, no one wants to sit on the bench," Fagundez said. "But at the same time, we know at some point everybody's going to have to, and we knew that when you're on the bench you need to bring energy to the game and change it... I think everybody who came into the game made an impact, and I think if we had five or six more minutes we could've won this game."
Despite starting out as an underdog, Fagundez tied for the most goals scored last season (7) and has scored 61 goals in his 300+ career appearances. He'll be needed more on the pitch than off of it for both his skills and spirit if the team hopes to advance to the playoffs.
3. Can Austin beat the big boys?
Live view from the south end! 🗣 pic.twitter.com/BalcGz77OA— Austin FC (@AustinFC) March 20, 2022
Austin FC wowed the league with back-to-back five-goal matches to kick off its season. But none of that matters if the club can't get points on the board against their own conference teams.
The Verde and Black easily beat FC Cincinnati and Inter Miami, and they did make history with those goal-heavy scores—but that's exactly what they were supposed to do against two teams that have never pushed past the bottom tier of their conference.
Since losing 5-1 to Austin, Inter Miami has scored just one more goal and sits at the bottom of MLS East with three losses and a draw. FC Cincinnati has already been more successful than seasons past, but that's not saying much: the team has drummed up two wins and two losses to reach the middle of the conference.
Austin played against two big guns in Portland and Seattle, and neither match proved who was the better team. The club will need to get some stats on the board as it embarks on a five-match stretch of slightly easier opponents in April before it can prove it deserves to sit with the best in the West.
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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.”
We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.
This restaurant claims to have the most authentic South Indian food, and from what I've heard, the claims might be true! Their menu features the traditional South Indian dishes of Idlis, Vadas, a variety of Dosas, and more.
If you're looking for an Indian and Tex-Mex fusion cozy restaurant, then look no further! Nasha on East 7th Street prides itself on its specialty margaritas, Tikka con Queso, Biryani, and more creative dishes!