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The gentle giant: Colombian Jhohan Romaña makes an unexpected journey to Austin FC

Jhohan Romana is a smiling face on the Austin FC roster. (Tigo Sports/Twitter)

Jersey Number: 3

Hometown: Apartadó, Colombia

Position: Defender

Age: 22

Former club: Club Guarani


When Austin FC sent two of its first signees, Rodney Redes and Cecilio Dominguez, to Club Guarani on loan, they weren't expecting to pick up a new teammate along the way. Enter Jhohan Romaña, a young center back whose aerial tricks and athleticism took them by surprise. By December 2020, Romaña joined the ranks alongside Redes and Dominguez. He was headed to Austin.

"It was a very beautiful moment for me," Romaña said. "This is something I was looking for for a long time. Being here changes your life."

Before signing with ATXFC, Romaña was the starting center back for Guarani, making 30 appearances with the club in the 2019-20 season. Romaña's lone goal with the club came in the 2020 CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores, where he made 12 appearances and 11 starts for the team. With Redes and Dominguez by his side, Romaña helped the team to the finals of the Copa Libertadores, which is South America's highest level of futbol competition.

Prior to Guarani, Romaña spent the 2016-18 seasons with Independiente Medellin, the six-time Colombian Championship team. Romaña started in both appearances with Medellin and helped the club win the 2016 Torneo Apertura, a Latin American futbol tournament.

With Austin FC

Romaña seemed to struggle with adapting to his newest league in preseason, but his confidence came back in full swing when he started in Austin FC's inaugural match and again against Denver.

"He's obviously got a nice physical presence and athleticism," Head Coach Josh Wolff said. "I love that he grinded and hung in there (against LAFC)... He had some very good moments."

At 6'1 and 224 pounds, Romaña's physical presence is easily made on the pitch. Even as one of the largest and strongest members of the team, it's his agility and aerial skills that set him above the rest.

In preseason, it was Romaña's confidence, not his skill set, that kept him from realizing his potential.

"It's taking time, but he's learning," Wolff said. "It's a new challenge. It's a new environment and our opponents look very different so far."

Romaña is one of five starters who made their MLS debut against LAFC, and at 22, he's among the youngest. Romaña's spot at center back is secured for now, and if he stays at the level he played at LAFC, he could have the position for good. However, veteran Julio Cascante will keep him competing for the starting spot throughout the season.

As the most inexperienced player on the back line, Romaña gets the unique opportunity to play alongside experienced players including former Kansas City captain Matt Besler, Nick Lima and Ben Sweat. Even with the language barrier, Romaña said Besler and goalkeeper Brad Stuver, who speaks a little bit of Spanish, work to keep him in the loop during practices and games. They've even come up with sign language gestures to make sure everyone's on the same page.

"Besler is a player with a lot of experience, he's really good," Romaña said. "Sometimes it's difficult for me in terms of the language, but we try to complement each other the best way we can."

Off the pitch

(Jhohan Romana/Instagram)

A native of Apartadó, Colombia, Romaña has now played in three countries. He's played alongside Redes and Dominguez in two of those nations, something that Romaña says makes them close on and off the pitch.

"I think Cecilio and Rodney are excellent players," Romaña said. "They're really good and we know each other very well. For me personally, it's really good because I know how they move. We interact with each other very well, and that makes the interaction and the overall performance much easier.

Eventually, Romana wants to tack on another continent and play in Europe, though he's very satisfied with the MLS so far.

"I've always wanted to watch Major League Soccer matches, (so) when my agent told me that being here was a possibility, (it was) a very beautiful, challenge for me," Romaña said. "This is definitely a step closer to going to Europe, and I'm so far thrilled to be here. The infrastructure that you see here, the facilities you see here, that's something that I'm very pleased to see."

For now, however, Austin is home for Romaña, and he's excited to explore the Texas Capitol as he adjusts to his new city.

"It's truly a blessing for me to be able to arrive to Austin," Romaña said. "I feel very happy. This is a wonderful and beautiful city. And obviously I hope later on the road I can get to know a little bit more of Austin. I haven't been able to go out as much, but I really hope that I can in the future."

For Austonia FC updates


‘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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