Despite near 100-degree heat, Austin FC's sunny four-week win streak was clouded with a shaky start and disputes between the club and supporters' groups as Austin lost 1-0 to LA Galaxy on Sunday.
With the loss, both Los Angeles teams are threatening to dethrone No. 2 Austin in the MLS West. Austin FC continues to edge out the Galaxy and has the second-most goals in the league behind its No. 1 opponent LAFC.
Here are three takeaways from the match:
The Dominguez dispute
While star forward Cecilio Dominguez didn't take to the pitch Sunday night, his influence was felt throughout the stadium as an uncharacteristic silence fell upon the Q2 Stadium supporters' section for 10 minutes of the match.
The team's two fan clubs halted their signature chants in response to Dominguez's return to the Austin FC roster Wednesday. Dominguez was suspended from the club for a month as the league conducted an investigation into an Austin police call alleging "verbal and emotional abuse" from Dominguez to his ex-partner on April 8.
APD did not continue the investigation, and Dominguez's ex-partner did not pursue any charges. But both fan clubs Austin Anthem and Los Verdes have taken a stand against Dominguez's continued presence on the team and domestic violence as a larger issue within the community. Fans held up banners for domestic violence hotline SAFE Alliance Austin and a Verde and Black banner demanding "No more silence."
A founding member of the Verdes Against Domestic Violence committee, who did not want to be named due to the sensitive subject, said the moment of silence was made to raise awareness to fans who don't know about the situation and highlight the severity of verbal emotional abuse while giving back to the community.
"We can use our voices or the absence of our voices to create an impact, so that's what we're doing," they said. "For us to be able to take this very difficult thing and turn it into something positive for our community was really important to all of us."
A gritty game
Austin's smiley, fun-loving playing style of recent weeks was dashed in the grueling 1-0 loss, especially as a turnover led to a long-distance Galaxy goal in just the sixth minute of play.
Austin FC's Ethan Finlay's quick ball recovery accidentally set up LA's Mark Delgado for a shot outside the box, which ricocheted off the post past keeper Andrew Tarbell to become the only goal of the match. Tarbell, who took over after star keeper Brad Stuver suffered a leg gash last match, also had two saves in the game.
The game was clearly going in the Galaxy's favor, partially due to Austin FC errors and turnovers, until Austin recovered its possession-heavy playing style in the second half. Despite a dominating first half for Galaxy, the Verde and Black finished off the game with 55.2% possession, 13 shots and two near-misses, including an off-the-post free kick from MLS' top goalscorer Sebastian Driussi.
The trials ahead
So close to an equalizer from Driussi! pic.twitter.com/QFktGSJEXa— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 9, 2022
Even as Austin FC rose to the top of the standings, many skeptics said the team's early success boiled down to "bonus games" against low-ranking teams.
If Austin's opponents were "bonuses" before, the opponents ahead are the opposite. The Verde and Black are 1-1 against higher-ranking teams with the loss after an eighth-place Houston Dynamo win April 30. The club will hit the road for a matchup against No. 5 Real Salt Lake before returning to take on LAFC—the top team in the league—in Los Angeles four days later on Wednesday, May 18.
The Verde and Black will hope for Stuver's recovery and more standout performances from scorers Maxi Urruti and Driussi as it looks to keep up that near-perfect record.
BONUS: Verde hair, don't care
The prophecy has finally come true.
Austin FC fan favorite Diego Fagundez has sported dark hair, bleached looks and even an "LV" fade for fan club Los Verdes, and he said from the start that Verde wasn't off the table.
"You never know," Fagundez said last April. "It might go green someday."
Fagundez fulfilled that promise with a new neon green hairdo at the Sunday match.
- Austin FC's Cecilio Dominguez returns after MLS investigation ... ›
- Austin FC's Cecilio Dominguez under MLS investigation amid abuse ... ›
- Details: Austin FC player Cecilio Dominguez's MLS suspension ... ›
Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff is here to stay as the Club announced he signed a three-year contract extension.
Wolff, who was previously an assistant coach for the U.S. Men's National Team, will coach Austin FC through the end of 2025 under the new contract.
Wolff has been the Austin FC head coach since November 2019. In the team's first year, some hoped to oust Wolff as the team was at the bottom of the Western Conference. But this year, the team is at the top, ranking No. 3.
“This is still a young, growing Club but seeing our vision for Austin FC come to life on and off the field has been one of the great honors of my career. My staff and I will keep working every day to represent the city, and to develop our team both competitively and as human beings. The best is yet to come," Wolff said.
Austin police are investigating the killing of Moriah "Mo" Wilson after she was found with gunshot wounds inside an East Austin home.
Wilson, a gravel and mountain bike racer, was visiting Austin from Colorado in preparation for the Gravel Locos race on Saturday taking place in Hico, a small town 2 hours from Austin.
On Wednesday, her roommate came home and found Wilson unresponsive with "a lot of blood near her,” police said, on Maple Avenue near East 17th Street. Officers and EMS performed life-saving measures before she was declared deceased at 10:10 p.m.
The Travis County Medical Examiner's office conducted an autopsy and determined the official cause of death to be multiple gunshot wounds, and the manner of death was a homicide. It is being investigated as a suspicious death and as of Saturday, police said they have a person of interest.
Wilson, 25, recently had become a full-time biker after winning a slew of races in the past year.
This story was updated on May 15 to include that police have determined a person of interest.