As Austin FC's standings continue to plummet, so does their fans' confidence in the team's game plan.
In August, we asked fans on Twitter why some of them think Head Coach Josh Wolff should be ousted just a few months into his first season. Dozens of fans left (very lengthy) responses on various ends of the #WolffOut spectrum, but all came to a clear consensus: the new club's game plan is not working.
That lack of cohesion was made all too clear over the weekend. In what may have been the lowest blow yet for the stumbling first-year team, Austin gave up a point to last-place Houston Dynamo within the first minute of play in a 3-0 loss on Saturday.
Some of Austin's flaws seem to contradict Wolff's original game plan: a lack of intensity, unforced errors and a lack of confidence in the final third continue to beset the team. But sometimes the team's biggest issues are hard to see with the naked eye.
Los Nerdes Verdes (from left: Sal and Erin Kubatzky, Travis Greenfield and Kingsley Powers-Greenfield) seek to find answers to Austin's biggest triumphs and defeats through the numbers. (Los Nerdes Verdes)
Each week, the two find a dataset that stands out to them and create fun, engaging tables and graphs to break down the club's best-and worst-stats.
"Saggy in the Middle"
Last game, errant passes and giveaways in the back plagued Austin. However, those giveaways may be covering up some more systemic defensive issues in the middle of the field where we struggle to put on meaningful pressure or make tackles. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/HTCXoqLuoY— Los Nerdes Verdes (@LosNerdesVerdes) September 4, 2021
When Austin FC lost 5-3 to rivals FC Dallas and lost a lead in a 2-1 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps, many fans pointed to the team's slow defense and errors from center backs Julio Cascante and Jhohan Romana, but the Nerdes found another culprit.
Austin FC is "Saggy in the Middle," the two said, ranking 24th and 27th of the MLS's 28 teams in tackles and pressure in the middle third of the field.
(1/2) With just 40.2% of Austin FC's touches coming in the middle third. That's good for 2nd last in the league.— Los Nerdes Verdes (@LosNerdesVerdes) August 14, 2021
Our opponents this season have spent just 39.7% of their possession in the middle of the field, a full 4% under the league average! pic.twitter.com/zIUI90eOYB
A few weeks earlier, the duo also found flaws in the middle: as of Aug. 14, Austin FC holds just 40% of their possession in midfield, ranking second to last in the league.
"Possession is nine-tenths of the law"
(2/3) This week’s matchup is a prime example of that dichotomy. The Sounders, despite averaging 48.3% possession, are second in the league goals per game and first in goals given up with just .64 a game. pic.twitter.com/aPczc8FZpm— Los Nerdes Verdes (@LosNerdesVerdes) July 22, 2021
Wolff's "positional play" method—a complex style popular in European leagues—has yet to pay off, and neither has their tendency to hold possession. According to Greenfield, holding possession has a higher correlation to success in Europe, South America and other high-caliber leagues. But it doesn't hold much weight in MLS.
"A lot of people touted the way Josh Wolff wants to play as something that's going to be kind of revolutionary... and that's very possession-heavy style, soccer that hasn't been done successfully in the MLS too much," Greenfield said. "And the way that kind of manifests on itself on the field so far seems to be this willingness to hold on to the ball, play a lot of passes, but something that's not necessarily good for progressing forward."
(1/2) Austin boasts some of the best passing statistics in the league – 2nd in pass comp/game and 1st in comp%.— Los Nerdes Verdes (@LosNerdesVerdes) July 31, 2021
However, only 30.5% of the distance covered by Austin passing is towards the opponents goal. That’s almost 4% under the MLS average and good for 24th comparatively. pic.twitter.com/rLBFIvuOvk
Austin's inability to transfer possession into goals may come down to their passing, which is actually impressive at first glance. While the team is second in MLS for pass completion, they aren't as adept in passing up the field. That translates to big losses to teams like the Seattle Sounders that tend to hold off on possession.
A silver lining
Austin FC— Los Nerdes Verdes (@LosNerdesVerdes) June 19, 2021
xGA: 2.16 (26th)
GA: 1.13 (10th)
The largest gap in the league. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/o2rEWjebma
Austin is an outlier in a few positive ways as well. In June, the Nerdes found that while Austin's expected goals against are high, the actual number of goals they give up are shockingly low. As of June 19, the team was expected to give up 2.16 goals per match, the second-most in the league, they actually rank 10th in keeping teams out of goal.
Greenfield said this comes down to two factors: the power of keeper Brad Stuver and the defense's shot-blocking prowess, though both have been less effective in recent weeks.
"In the story you tell about Austin FC this season, especially through the statistics, you have to mention Brad Stuver," Greenfield said. "It's this bend, don't break method where we allow them to come into the defensive third and try to clamp down."
This week we are playing Sporting KC which will be a TOUGH test. They lead the league in goals and goals per game. They are near the top of the league in goal distance, and they convert almost all of their expected goals. Their offense is efficient AND productive. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/fAdn5ezR97— Los Nerdes Verdes (@LosNerdesVerdes) June 12, 2021
While Greenfield admits that numbers reveal only part of the story, he's found Los Nerdes Verdes have united both seasoned soccer fans and newbies with their fun, Austin-centric content (see headlines like "Austin FC takes shots from Manchaca").
"There is a huge group of people who like to engage in soccer the same way that we do.. and it's just been really fun to try to bring those two types of fans together in a way," Greenfield said.
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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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