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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President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law on Tuesday, a move that the White House says will unlock hundreds of billions more in semiconductor investment across the country.
Part of that investment could make waves in Central Texas, where semiconductor companies have laid the groundwork for more plants and jobs as a global shortage of semiconductors continues.
For example, Samsung already had a $17 billion semiconductor factory in Taylor on the way. Then in July, documents filed with the state showed that the tech giant is considering 11 chipmaking facilities in the Austin area that it’d build over the next two decades. The proposed $192.1 billion investment would bring more than 10,000 jobs.
\u201cThe CHIPS Act will supercharge our efforts to make semiconductors here in America. It will make cars, appliances, and computers cheaper and lower the costs of everyday goods. And, it will create high-paying manufacturing jobs across the country.\u201d— Joe Biden (@Joe Biden) 1659828240
Micron Technology is another giant that could make a multi-billion regional investment.
At the start of the year, Micron Technology was reportedly considering a new plant in neighboring Caldwell and Williamson counties, though California, North Carolina and Arizona were also being reviewed as potential sites for the plant.
On Tuesday, Micron announced plans to invest $40 billion between now and 2030 for chip manufacturing in the U.S.
In a public video statement, CEO Sanjay Mehrotra noted how semiconductors are essential to many tools that are a part of everyday life such as computers, smartphones and cars.
“Today is a proud moment for the global Micron team and a strong step forward for American high tech manufacturing leadership,” Mehrotra said. The company said specific plans for the investment will be made available in the coming weeks.
\u201cToday, we announced plans to invest $40 billion in the U.S. through the end of the decade to build leading-edge memory #manufacturing. Our investment will create 40k American jobs and strengthen U.S. supply chains. Watch this space! #jobs #innovation https://t.co/WPePuDVJs6\u201d— Micron Technology (@Micron Technology) 1660050842
Recently, the city has made efforts to train Austin residents for the kind of roles companies like Micron and Samsung would try to fill. A couple of months ago, the city announced a “hire local” plan with Workforce Solutions to help people in fields like manufacturing and information technology get training to move up in their careers.
The bipartisan bill includes $52 billion in semiconductor subsidies. Nationwide, these incentives could create thousands of jobs and multiple fabs, the Semiconductor Industry Association estimates. Some of that could happen in the Austin area from companies looking to expand.
NXP Semiconductors is weighing a $2.6 billion expansion and Infineon Technologies is looking at a $700 million expansion. Respectively, those two could add 800 and 100 jobs.
Central Texas has a reputation as a major hub for semiconductors, and the competition with other areas could ramp up in the coming years as others like Qualcomm and Intel consider new facilities. Dallas-based Texas Instruments also celebrated the passing of the CHIPS Act.
“TI has an exciting manufacturing investment roadmap and these provisions will be meaningful to the development of our 300-mm water fabs in Texas and Utah,” the company said in a Tuesday Twitter post.
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It’s slowly but surely becoming easier to buy a house in Austin.
According to the Austin Board of Realtors, the median house price in the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area is $537,475 as of July. Take a look at what that price range can get you.
This two-story brick home is the biggest on the list, with four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms across 2,156 square feet in Round Rock. Characterized by its sky-high ceilings, large windows and newly updated fixtures, the home has a spacious backyard with mature trees, a wooden deck, a lounge area and close proximity to a nearby greenbelt.
This listing is held by Drew Griffin with Compass.
This recently updated three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was built in 1983 but fits in perfectly with the design standards of today. On top of newly-updated floors, roof and windows, this home comes complete with a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, a spacious open floor plan and plenty of natural light. The biggest gem of this house is its vaulted and covered back patio, which gives way to a large backyard on a corner lot. At 1,280 square feet, the home is just a few minutes away from The Domain and Q2 Stadium.
This listing is held by Jennifer Buterick and Nicole Marburger with Compass.
Another retro find, this 2,098-square foot home has character to go around and is looking for a caretaker who will love it as much as the last. With four bedrooms and two bathrooms, the house has plenty of room for a home office and is colorfully painted throughout, including bright blue kitchen cabinets. On a third of an acre, this home comes with 12 fruiting trees in the backyard, solar panels, rain-catching barrels and a converted garage with living space.
This listing is held by Niki Duncan with Compass.
This three-bedroom, two-bathroom South Austin home has a wide-open floor plan and sparkling white interiors. The vaulted ceiling in the living room gives height to the room while the fireplace will keep you warm. An airy master suite comes with double pedestal sinks and two walk-in closets, so you don’t have to worry about sharing space with your partner. Enjoy the Texas weather with a private yard, screened-in porch, and fire pit.
This listing is held by Michelle Hendrix and Khani Zulu with Compass.
A retro-on-the-outside, single-story home was built in 1973 but has been given a full modern update on the inside. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,676-square foot home is situated on a half acre of land, complete with an above-ground pool and covered porch to keep you shady during the oppressive heat. Inside, you’ll walk directly into an open living and dining area, which features a floor-to-ceiling tiled fireplace, that leads to the breakfast nook, and kitchen with mosaic-tiled backsplash and a built-in wine rack.
This listing is held by Derek Peterson with Compass.