Jersey Number: 21
Hometown: Murska Sobota, Slovenia
Former club: NK Maribor
Žan Kolmanič may have been the latest to join Austin FC's training camp, but he's already made immediate impact. The 21-year-old hopped on a plane to Austin straight from the UEFA U-21 Championships where he represented his home country of Slovenia.
Before Austin, Kolmanič spent four seasons with NK Maribor, a 15-time championship team in the Slovenian premier league PrvaLiga, logging six assists with the club. Kolmanič started in 43 of his 45 matches played and helped guide the team to yet another PrvaLiga Championship as a 19-year-old in 2018-19.
Kolmanič has also represented his country on the international level. As he grew up, Kolmanič logged almost as many appearances with the U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19 and U-21 Slovenian National teams as he has professionally. He's played in 39 international matches and most recently participated in three matches against Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic in the U-21 Championships in March.
Without breaking stride, Kolmanič came to Austin and quarantined before joining the inaugural Austin FC roster. Kolmanič said he's glad to have played a final season with Maribor to get him ready for the MLS.
"I have a lot of games already this year, (so) I'm ready," Kolmanič said. "I was in the rhythm with the game, so it was really, really good for me to join the team."
With Austin FC
Kolmanič was added to the roster as more of a depth player than a starter, but he was called up prematurely when fellow left back Ben Sweat suffered an ACL tear in the beginning of the Colorado Rapids match. Kolmanič entered with composure and energy, quickly filling in Sweat's shoes.
Kolmanič said he's happy to match the faster tempo of MLS play and credits his calmness and his teammates for his quick adjustment.
"I can say that I'm calm with the ball," Kolmanič said. "I think I make good decisions on the pitch, and, of course, trying to help with energy for all of us teammates, they've all been great to me. We connect and you saw it on the pitch against LAFC and Colorado."
With Sweat out for the season, Kolmanič is likely to start at left back for the rest of the season. It's been all but confirmed by Wolff, who said Aedan Stanley and Hector Jimenez could also get minutes at the position as well.
Even though he missed much of preseason, Wolff said he may be the fittest on the team since he's fresh out of a season with NK Maribor. Kolmanič is also a standout due to his ability to provide chances on goal to his teammates; against LAFC, he provided five crosses in his MLS debut, and he was able to do more of the same as he subbed in for Sweat to help ATXFC to a 3-1 victory.
Off the pitch
A native of Murska Sobota, Slovenia, Kolmanič is one of three Europeans to join the club. Most players speak English or Spanish, and Kolmanič is the only Slovenian speaker on the club, though he speaks English as well. Still, Kolmanič said it's not hard for the players to communicate on the pitch.
"We make it work," Kolmanič said. "On the field, you just see how how we play and you see the movements of the player, so we don't really need to speak that much."
While it's a big adjustment to be in the States, Kolmanič said he's better off here as Slovenia enters a lockdown.
"I escaped lockdown in Slovenia when I left and here is more open and everything," Kolmanič said. "And we got the vaccines, (so) I think, for me, it's better to be right here."
He's also on the younger end of the lineup. At 21, Kolmanič is one of six under-22 players on Austin FC's roster, and he's one of several to make his MLS debut this season. As the league continues to grow, Kolmanič said he's happy to have the opportunity to play here. As for the future?
"We will see," Kolmanič said. "I'm just trying to make an impact in the game."
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After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.