After two straight losses, Austin FC is set to take on one of three still-undefeated MLS clubs this weekend. It's not all doom and gloom, however—Nashville SC may be unbeaten, but they've logged just one win and four draws this season.
Austin FC will also have their "ringleader" Alex Ring back in patching up a hole in midfield that gave LA Galaxy the leg up in last week's match.
Hector Jimenez's injury that saw him leave the match in a stretcher has been determined as an MCL tear in one of the latest defender injuries. A few weeks ago, left back Ben Sweat suffered an ACL injury that left Zan Kolmanic in his stead, and defender Freddy Kleemann has been put on loan to USL side Memphis 901 FC. It goes without saying that defensive depth is stretched thin.
The club will play fellow expansion club Nashville SC for their sixth-straight road match at 8 p.m. on Sunday.
What to expect
Nashville SC is the most recent expansion club in MLS aside from Austin, and despite a rocky start, the club managed to play 23 matches in the fall of 2020, finishing 7th in the Eastern Conference to earn a playoff berth.
A strong defense and 4-4-2 formation led the team to a scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake City last weekend, and the club has had two of the past three matches end in goose eggs (0-0).
Nashville's defensive cornerstone is Walker Zimmerman, a 27-year-old center back who scored the first goal in the expansion team's history and was named to the 2020 MLS Best XI last season. Alongside keeper Joe Willis, Nashville has proven it has few holes on its back end.
The club has dominated offensively in several matches this season as well. Nashville is likely to go back to their traditional 4-3-2-1 formation this week with Designated Player Hany Muktar back on the pitch, and the club has outshot its past opponents 34-12 this season.
Another formidable threat comes from off the pitch. Nashville knows how to dominate in its home stadium, and Austin FC is at a significant exhaustion disadvantage as it heads into its sixth straight road match. The Yellow-and-Blue is sure to clash with Verde, however, as hundreds of members of Austin FC's fan club take to the stadium for their #NashVERDE event.
On Austin FC's side, keeper Brad Stuver has kept the club in many matches with his spectacular saves, and he'll be a threat if Nashville continues to struggle in the final third.
Projected starting lineup
Ring is back! The captain's absence against LA Galaxy due to two yellow cards was certainly felt last weekend, and the defensive midfielder is certain to be back on the pitch to secure the midfield.
Danny Hoesen graced the crown off the pitch once again last week after Jon Gallagher stayed home on injury. However, Head Coach Josh Wolff said they're "hopeful" that Gallagher will get back into training this week. It's still unclear who will take the striker spot: neither have quite gotten their groove as a top scorer.
Sub Kekuta Manneh was a surprise threat against the Galaxy, making three threatening shots against the club in just ten minutes. While it's unlikely he'll start, he earned a double take from many who may have discounted him in the past, and Wolff was impressed with his performance.
"He's got good individual quality and his ability to combine and go 1-v-1 is nice," Wolff said. "I think he's certainly created some chances."
Nick Lima is almost certain to be at right back once again after Jimenez's injury, and the back line will need to hold on tightly to this formation as both Jimenez and Sweat heal.
Injuries and exhaustion are key threats to Austin FC's growth, but Wolff said that the club is still able to refresh as they continue to build on their identity.
"We're always going to be aware of our freshness," Wolff said. "These teams are amped up, they're at home, and they're all good opponents. So we've got to be at our very best, and we're still learning what that looks like. That's part of the challenge each week."
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As summer temperatures continue to increase, so does Austin's "Party Island"—a hundreds-strong army of kayakers and paddle boarders who gather each weekend in the middle of Lady Bird Lake.
Born from the pandemic, the swarm of paddleboarding partiers has continued to grow each summer and can be seen from the nearby Lamar Boulevard Bridge. And while "Party Island" certainly lives up to one half of its name, it's not actually an island at all: instead, it's located at a shallow sandbar near Lou Neff Point.
With beers, burgers from portable grills and even DJ turntables in hand, more friends and strangers continue to beat the heat in new ways at the distinct Austin hangout.
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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.