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Claire Partain is a staff reporter covering Austin FC and breaking news. Claire was previously the sports editor for The University Star, Texas State University's daily newspaper, where she covered sports, produced podcasts, and hosted a pre-game TXST football tailgate live series. She prides herself in versatile reporting and finding the human aspect in every story. Twitter: @partain_claire.
Two months ago, Austin FC superfan Brad Tillery embarked on a near-impossible quest for the elusive Verde keeper kit, a swirling, bright green jersey worn by standout goalie Brad Stuver.
"It immediately grabbed my attention," Tillery told Austonia. "I just posted, 'Where is this. I've got to get this.'"
Tillery posted a few pleas for the kit, including a haiku, before his wife, Kerry Tillery, joined in on the fun. Kerry, who had a following on Vine before its collapse, said she was eager to join in on the creative process.
"I've always been big into like sketch comedy," Tillery said. "It's just been a lot of fun, and it's something collaborative that we can do (since) we don't do too much together creatively."
Kerry Tillery was one of the first to receive the keeper kit after creating videos for its release. (Kerry Tillery)
On Day 19 of the noble mission, the Tillerys' work finally got recognition after a clip made by the pair, inspired by the popular "JG Wentworth commercials," went viral in the Austin FC Twitterverse. The other Brad, goalkeeper Brad Stuver, saw the post and agreed to send Tillery a keeper kit if he donated to Stuver's charity. A deal had been made, but the keeper kit wouldn't reach the Tillery's mailbox for over a month.
Are you an @AustinFC fan and need a VERDE KEEPER KIT now?
Call FC Wentworth.
— Brad (@au_trout) April 13, 2021
After 53 days of serenading the kit, editing the jersey into Star Wars scenes and the Kentucky Derby and (jokingly) putting the kit's release above their own marriage, it was finally released.
Club Owner Anthony Precourt announced that the kit would be sold at the Verde Store, followed by a video featuring Stuver at the store itself. Members of fan clubs Los Verdes and Austin Anthem quickly scrambled to the store to purchase the long-awaited kit, and the Austin FC account had to warn that supplies were already limited.
Tillery said he actually received word on the kit's release at the Colorado Rapids game by Stuver himself.
"I haven't actually ever spoken to him, except for a 10-second conversation," Tillery said. "After the game in Denver, we were yelling back and forth, so I had an inkling that it was going to happen."
A month of silence followed, and Stuver shipped him the official kit two days before its announcement. When the kit finally arrived Saturday, Tillery said he felt "like a kid in a candy store."
Here's @au_trout on Saturday coming back from the mailbox and opening the package from @brad_stuver. Notice his death grip on the box. pic.twitter.com/zaTe1cvn34
— Kerry (@Kerry_Pro) May 17, 2021
It may seem like just another piece of Verde merch, but the Verde kit campaign has turned into a rallying cry. The Tillerys have been supported by Los Verdes, Austin Anthem, La Murga and Oak Army New Braunfels as the quest continued to gain traction.
Most importantly, however, the keeper kit has helped raise money for Brad Stuver's charity, The Laundry Project. Stuver and his wife, Ashley, brought their former charity to Austin with a goal of helping Austinites pay for laundromat fees, and Tillery made sure to shout out the charity that started it all in his final video on Monday.
"I thought it was important to do something for the community," Tillery said. "We're seeing people actually already donate today, and that's going to go to help people in our community who have to go to laundromats... just a small expense for it to be taken care of."
With a final, Breakfast Club-esque clip, Tillery raised his fist triumphantly in the keeper kit itself, his campaign finally a success.
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Good news for graduates: Austin is the fourth-best city in the U.S. to start your career, according to a WalletHub study.
In Austin, it's common for people to stay in the Capital City after attending The University of Texas, St. Edward's University or another surrounding college. It's the quality of life and professional opportunities that keep graduates here, at least that's what the study says.
WalletHub ranked 182 cities across the country on 28 different metrics to determine which were the bests for new professionals. Austin ranked fourth overall and was No. 1 in quality of life and 22nd in professional opportunities.
Austin dwarfed other Texas cities on the list, with Irving the next highest in 28th place. The No.1 city for new careers was Salt Lake City, Utah, followed by Orlando, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia.
Other emerging tech hubs were lower on the list. Denver, Colorado sat at 19th place, Charlotte, North Carolina made 30th place, and Miami, FL was ranked 77th. California cities were plagued with low affordability, and the highest-ranked city was San Francisco in 25th place.
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Tesla's new Gigafactory in Austin has done more than tack on national headlines: it's also reshaping Riverside and the rest of southeast Austin.
Michele Bryant, manager of Treehouse Apartments on Oltorf Street, said that "low availability (and) heavy demand" is ending previous specials and sales at the complex as Tesla employees take root in the area.
"We leased 13 units to Tesla employees in the last two months and many more are inquiring daily," Bryant said.
Tesla's Giga Texas is located 15 miles from Riverside's hub and sits near another southeast Austin feature, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Though the Gigafactory won't be complete until the end of the year, the company is hiring droves of new workers. In April, Tesla CEO and Austin resident Elon Musk tweeted, "Over 10,000 people are needed for Giga Texas just through 2022!"
Another busy dat at Giga Texas - it almost looks like the Millennium Falcon now @elonmusk 🛸
📷 @peterdog15 (1 of 4 pics) pic.twitter.com/K5CYWIzK8o
— Tesla Owners of Austin (@AustinTeslaClub) May 13, 2021
Austin Board of Realtors President Susan Horton said that the influx of tech companies has affected where people choose to move within the Austin metro. "We are projected to have 35,000 new jobs here by the end of the year because of just the tech industry," Bryant said. "Tech is booming, and they want to be as close to those areas as they can."
The effects of the ongoing tech and California migration have already been felt throughout Austin, but areas with close proximity to the companies' headquarters, including Pflugerville and Riverside, are seeing the biggest changes to their communities.
when i moved to austin just 10 years ago the east side was where my community was, where i went to feel like i was home, even with the riverside college kids. but even then it was much smaller. now since the tech boom's gentrification east side is nearly lost -- https://t.co/ppbX0MQ8WX
— Kate Sánchez⁷ (@OhMyMithrandir) June 6, 2020
Road construction plagues much of Oltorf, the street parallel to the south of Riverside, and new apartments are constantly being reconstructed or remodeled to match increasing demand.
East Riverside-Oltorf has been known for slightly higher crime rates, but it's also an affordable oasis amid the sky-high Austin housing market. Young people starting their careers flock to the area, which has an average 1-bedroom rent at $150 cheaper than the rest of Austin and half the price of rent downtown, according to Zumper.
But a change in landscape means a change in price. At Treehouse, there's more interest than there is room, and Bryant said the complex ended a special because they simply don't need it to bring people in.
On Riverside and nearby Oltorf Street, new high rises catered to young people stand half-built, and existing properties are constantly undergoing remodels.
Bryant, who has worked at Treehouse Apartments for two years, has already noticed changes to the neighborhood.
"I have noticed more mid-rise properties being built," Bryant said. She added it is "most likely due to tech and Tesla housing needs."
The neighborhood that is dotted with taco trucks and Austin treasures, such as Emo's Austin and Buzz Mill, is now slated for a revamp that mirrors The Domain in North Austin.
The project, nicknamed "The Domain on Riverside," is a 10 million-square-foot project approved by Austin City Council in October of 2019. The behemoth, labeled River Park, would double the size of its North Austin counterpart. The project could take over two decades to build, with its first phase set to be complete in 2023.
Rendering of River Park.
While some, including the project's developers, say the development will help add affordable housing and bring business into the area, others such as Save Our Hoodz, a local organization bringing attention to displacement, say the project contributes to gentrification.
The development is part of a bigger-scale operation adopted by the city in 2010. The East Riverside Corridor Master plan intends to bring more green space and walkability to the area, but it's also led to increased interest from cash-happy investors.
With Oracle bordering Riverside to the north and Tesla to the east, a change in landscape has already begun, and a transformation of the area seems almost guaranteed.
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In a match marred by injuries and key player absences, Austin FC lost 2-0 in Los Angeles for the second time on Saturday to West Division titan LA Galaxy.
Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver was tasked with the near-insurmountable task of holding back the LA Galaxy's Chicharito, who is now the league's top scorer this season, and he nearly succeeded.
The club saw its first major threat from the formidable Chicharito when a penalty was drawn on Jhohan Romana. In his usual game-saving fashion, Stuver leapt to the right to kept the scoreboard empty and block what many thought would be the league leader's first goal of the match.
With a Hector Jimenez injury midway through play, a Jon Gallagher absence due to injury and a man down as Captain Alex Ring sat the bench, however, the team was unable to get a win in their second trip to Los Angeles.
Austin FC was slated to play against the odds after Ring was benched due to a second yellow card last week. To cover the wound, the club put standout rookie Daniel Pereira in his stead and placed Danny Hoesen back at the crown of the lineup after fellow striker Gallagher stayed home.
Hector Jimenez got his first start with the club at right back in the stead of Nick Lima, but the run was short-lived. The 32-year-old suffered an injury after attempting to save the first LA Galaxy goal, but Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget still scored the match opener after popping a shot over Stuver to make the match 1-0.
Austin FC plateaued through much of the first half, and the forces of the universe were in the Galaxy's favor as they encroached on Austin's defense.
The club found new stamina, as they usually do, when a set of subs were brought in to up the club's tempo, and ten minutes of the match were entirely Kekuta Manneh's. Manneh, the club's only player with Austin ties, subbed in the 60th minute of play and immediately made an attempt on goal. The winger would make three more attempts, one of which just missed the top right corner of goal, before LA made its next advances on Austin's defense.
Head coach Josh Wolff said he hoped for a goal for Manneh, who doesn't often get to hit the pitch.
"His contributions were obvious, and I would have liked to see him get a goal there," Wolff said.
It looked like Austin might tie it up during the "Kekuta Era," but Chicharito played true to his stats. Stuver went head-to-head with Chicharrito once again and lost as he scored his seventh goal in five matches in the 77th minute of play.
⚽️ x 7️⃣@CH14_ scores his league-leading seventh of the season! #LAvATX pic.twitter.com/28zLnOmKWb
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 15, 2021
Matt Besler said he was up for a challenge as the club's central defender and he's unsurprised at Chicharito's success. Besler also said and he respects Chicharito on and off the pitch becuase of his openness about mental illness.
"I was looking forward to the challenge," Besler said. "His recognition of where the space is world class, and it's no surprise that he's scored goals everywhere that he's gone. I respect him as a player and I also respect him off the field."
Another attempt on goal was made by the Galaxy's Kevin Cabral, who sunk one in past Stuver just minutes later, but the goal was called offsides. Still, the match came to an anticlimactic end as Austin FC was unable to get one in goal and lost 2-0.
Besler, who has seen the ebbs and flows of his Sporting Kansas City, his club of 12 years, said that it takes patience to be a successful team. Still, he's impressed that Austin FC has made as much ground as they have in their expansion year.
"I understand that it's going to be a process, and we are in our fifth game of our existence, but the fact that we're at where we are at isa good sign," Besler said. "Towards the last third of the season, that's when hopefully we can peak and look a lot like our final product."
Austin FC will have a chance to snap their two-match losing streak as they head to Nashville SC for their sixth-straight road match at 8 p.m.on Sunday.