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.
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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.”