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Great day to be Verde! Austin FC plays preseason game, new soccer venue opens, and fans watch from Verde Hill

Austin FC players like Sebastian Driussi played alongside newcomers in a 2-1 preseason loss to Toronto FC Wednesday. (Austin FC/Twitter)

North Austin's Parmer Pond was filled with Verde Wednesday as Austin FC opened its doors to the media for the first time this season to watch a preseason matchup against Toronto FC at its practice field, St. David's Performance Center.

Although the team lost 2-1, the friendly match was a chance to watch last year's fan favorites, like Diego Fagundez and Brad Stuver, play alongside new talents including Maxi Urruti, the former Houston Dynamo striker who scored Austin's lone goal of the match.

Familiar chants from fan band La Murga echoed into the practice field in Northeast Austin as they looked onto the match from above at what they call the Verde Hill.

Austin FC fan band La Murga de Austin weren't allowed inside St. David's, but they still watched from afar atop the "Verde Hill" as the team played its preseason match. (Claire Partain/Austonia)

And after the match, fans and media alike could snag food and drinks from new Verde entertainment hub The Pitch, which had its soft opening Wednesday at Parmer Pond.

The Pitch began filling up with customers on its soft open Wednesday as fans looked to get food and drinks at the new facility. (Claire Partain/Austonia)

Austin's second matchup of the season saw a hodgepodge of players new and old. The starting lineup included last season's strongholds Stuver and Fagundez, while Captain Alex Ring and Daniel Pereira took the midfield. Right back Nick Lima, center back Jhohan Romana, and star forwards Sebastian Driussi and Cecilio Dominguez also took to the pitch.

But it was Urruti who stood out most as he notched a goal in the 32nd minute off a Ring assist, and by the second half, more new players had entered the mix. Head Coach Josh Wolff's son, Owen Wolff, was joined by midfielder Jhojan Valencia, who made it to Austin from his home country of Colombia just four days before, and MLS vet Felipe Martins entered the pitch just two days after his signing was announced.

Promising young center back Kipp Keller, who was Austin FC's No. 1 pick in the MLS SuperDraft this offseason and played in the first half of the match, said the three weeks of preseason have been a chance to adapt to a higher level of play and build chemistry with his new teammates.

"It's definitely what I expected," Keller said. "I knew it was going to be hard, but I'm getting used to it day by day and just trying to learn from these big-time players. It's pretty cool, playing with these guys I looked up to my whole life."

Even with Urruti's goal, Austin could never regain momentum after Toronto scored on a penalty kick less than 10 minutes into the match and later scored again in the second half. But with a year under their belt, Stuver said the team's challenges are fewer as they head into the season with a more experienced and cohesive group.

"Last year, we had to learn to teach a system, learning everything from scratch on the field (and) off the field," Stuver said. "From day one, we were able to say, 'Hey, we know exactly what's expected of us.' Now we have to get up to that level quick."

Fans will no longer have to crane their necks on the Verde Hill as Austin FC hosts its first open match of the season in an international friendly against current Liga MX champions Atlas FC at Q2 Stadium on Wednesday, Feb. 16.


‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

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.”

Austin's 7 Best Indian Restaurants

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.

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