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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The FTA announced the funding round on Thursday, which dispersed $11 million across 12 states and 20 projects. The money is meant to connect communities to affordable transit and housing through the FTA Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development planning.
CapMetro said the funds will go toward projects at eight stations spanning 6.5 miles on the South end of the Orange Line, which has a total of 22 stations. The full project stretches across the 20 miles from Southpark Meadows to Tech Ridge.
Republic Square station is along the Orange Line. (Project Connect rendering)
Once it’s complete, which officials estimate will be in 2028, the Orange Line will reach the following stations:
- Tech Ridge (Park & Ride)
- North Lamar International District
- The Triangle
- UT campus
- Republic Square
- Auditorium Shores
- South Congress
- Southpark Meadows (Park & Ride)
A $500 million mixed-use development spanning 1,400 acres is coming to Southeast Austin, near Tesla’s headquarters at Giga Texas.
Plans for the development by Houston-based real estate firm Hines include 2,500 houses along with multi-family and townhomes, and commercial land. Hines is partnering with Trez Capital, Sumitomo Forestry and Texas-based Caravel Ventures.
The development, which is known as Mirador, will be located off the 130 Toll and Highway 71, which the developers say provides easy access to the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 racetrack and other Austin attractions like restaurants, parks and live music venues.
Hines also boasts amenities like a 60-acre lake, over 600 acres of greenbelt, community parks, trails and a swimming pool.
“As Austin continues to grow into the tech epicenter of Texas, coupled with a supply-constrained market, the demand for new housing is at its highest,” Dustin Davidson, managing director at Hines, said. “Mirador will be critical in providing more options for Austin’s growing population and we are excited to work alongside our partners given they each provide a unique and valued perspective in single-family development.”
The local housing market has been hot in recent years, with home sales accelerating earlier in the pandemic. In July 2021, the Austin metro area hit its pricing peak at $478,000. As Austonia previously reported, the area has been expected to see the Tesla effect, with the new workforce driving up demand for housing and other services.
The single-family houses are expected to be developed over the course of six years, in phases. Construction on the homes is expected to start this year and home sales will begin in 2023.
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