Austin’s Designated Player Situation

“I think if I’m 40 and I don’t have any kids and I’m not married, I would have a baby artificially inseminated. I would feel like Mary – like Jesus is my baby.” – Kim Kardashian

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Have you seen the “Owners” section of Austin F.C.’s website? If not, perhaps, you might recognize it by its secondary name: “Old rich white dudes getting digitally stroked off & Matthew McConaughey is here too“. So much electronic fondling goes down here that I can’t, with a clear conscious, recommend you view it at work:

Do I have a problem with the Austin F.C. brass asking their web team for a digitized handy? No — quite the contrary. In fact, I’m excessively jealous.

This is the sort of self-congratulatory loving I yearn for. If you shelled out millions to invest in a sports team, the least that team could do is give your ego a proper stroking. Let’s be real; what sports owner doesn’t enjoy a good tug every now again (see: Robert Kraft)? In some strange parallel universe where your favorite bro became part owner, my bio would read something like this:

My profile tells you what you need to know; I’m the dominant alpha-male amongst the Austin FC owners.

First, I check off the obligatory “I’m rich AF” box by just coming out and telling you “I’m rich as fuck”. Second, I drop plenty of sexual references — I’m down to clown and not afraid to be immature about it (personality). Finally, I actually mention the sport we just dropped $10 Ga-Gillion dollars to own a team in. This seems like an important thing to mention. Just a thought.

In case you are not aware, Major League Soccer operates with a salary cap, but teams can make up to 3 players exempt from this cap and pay them whatever is required to lure them to the States (Designated Players – thank David Beckham for this). Some teams drop millions to sign and pay names like Beckham, Thierry Henry, Carlos Vela, Wayne Rooney, or Zlatan Ibrahimovich.

I want star-power in Austin, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m a whore for expensive/marketable signings. Whilst daydreaming about MLS’s star-signing front offices, keep in mind the types of owners that purchase these kinds of players, and the markets they own teams in. So what about the Austin group?

Surprisingly, there is almost no mention of futbol in the Austin FC Owner bios. Mostly, you get a bunch of older, rich dudes who look really cranky about getting their pictures taken. To be fair though, Anthony Precourt looks really excited in his photo and has the most obvious association with futbol. My guy Toby is also looking extra psyched. Strong power-play with the only black and white photo there Tobe, but still…no footy talk.

Matthew McConaughey looks performance ready. “I’m going to pretend I’m a real businessman today,” he said with his trademark “swistle”. You know you can hear him say it…”biz-nisss-maaaan”. Nice sepia filter too. Even with this fine-tuned facade in place, I still have a hard time taking him seriously as an owner. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a McConaughey fan. His acting ability, role choices and hairline have improved greatly over the past two decades. So when I first heard about his involvement in the club, I thought he might bring Austin FC the same level of legitimate celebrity fandom he brings to the University of Texas’s football program.

Maybe he was a closet soccer fan. Maybe, like me, he had the boyhood dream of one day owning his own soccer team. But then I read this article, and I started to have major doubts…

If you want to see my guy McConaughey act like the ultimate implement for 55 seconds straight, give the video atop that article a look. His pandering is a little cringe and gives me no reason to believe he is invested in this thing for the love of the game. Side note, I’m 99.9% convinced when he said “the soccer ball is the greatest invitation in world” (yes, invitation), he most certainly meant to say “invention.” He is attending a Chelsea game and could only come up with “an Arsenal game” when asked if he has watched a lot of football matches. Of course, this didn’t stop him from claiming he was there to scout players, according to the article/headline. McConaughey is scouting players? We’re doomed.

Matt. You don’t have to build yourself up to impress the fans. You don’t have to embellish for us. You don’t have to lie to yourself. Be yourself Matt. Just keep living, bro.

Professional headshotz by a real photographer. Both actors.

So this leaves us with our last hope; the man who dumped his old team like a crazy ex and started chatting up the vibrant city of Austin well before the divorce was finalized; Anthony Precourt is our sole “soccer guy”. With his previous team, Precourt had solid results in Columbus. The Crew only missed the playoffs twice while he was owner, and for a small market team, that’s damn good business. The bad news is that he achieved this success while remaining relatively thrifty with his on-field talent.

Remember when those “Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez could be Austin F.C.’s first signing” rumors were swirling around town before he ended up in LA? Wisely, Precourt fed right into this rumor — a smart move considering you don’t actually need to spend money on a player to create buzz around the “possibility” of signing them. That shit is $free.99. Chicharito’s very real transfer to Los Angeles places him in a pay realm of $6 million per year and also saw the Galaxy send $9.4 million to Sevilla F.C. in the transfer. I don’t see Anthony Precourt throwing down $15.4 million on a player in one year. Ever.

Precourt’s largest transfer with the Crew? Pedro Santos for $2mil. Never heard of him? Didn’t think so.

No biggie, right? Major League Soccer teams typically rely on free transfers and then lay heavy on the Designated Player’s salary. There is still hope…

Columbus Crew’s highest paid player? Gyasi Zardes – $1.5mil per year. $4.5mil short of Hernandez.

Well…

…shit.

Unlike the LA Galaxy and Chicharito, teams like Atlanta United have stars that aren’t household names across the globe. That could make you feel warm/fuzzy if you compare Gyasi Zardes’s salary to Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez ($3.1mil) or Ezequiel Barco ($1.4mil). They’re all in a similar stratosphere, but the trick here is that both Atlanta players came with hefty transfer fees (Martinez – $5mil / Barco a record-breaking $13.5mil). Precourt’s Columbus appeared to be a team not willing to make these sorts of monetary commitments.

There is also the matter of incentive. What incentivizes Anthony Precourt to make a move like the Chichario signing? Austin FC broke records for ticket presales, remember? In fact, the team has already sold out of luxury boxes and premium seating (general seating isn’t available yet). This team is a cash-cow, and they don’t have a single player on the roster yet. No need to spend millions on DP’s yet. Baller position to be in from a business perspective.

To be clear, I can make perfect sense of an owner leaning towards sustained profitability over flashy purchases. New stadiums don’t pay for themselves — get your paper gentlemen. But deep down, I wish Austin would board the big-name-star hype train.

With Precourt undoubtedly making the soccer decisions amongst the owners, I’m confident Austin will be a great team with time, but I want instant success. I want star power. I want the hype of high profile designated players. I can already hear the AFC zealots claiming “the only thing that matters is our record on the field!” If you happen to share their sentiment, all I can say is I’m sorry. I’m sorry my love and devotion to a currently imaginary team isn’t as pure as your own. You deserve a medal for your bravery.

Everything is going to be okay. My advice is to watch the formation of Austin FC’s roster through a realistic lens. Will Austin FC eventually have a quality team? Yes. Will that be achieved through high-profile designated player signings? Probably not. My overall feelings are best summarized by a letter I recently wrote to Arthur Blank not that long ago. To finish today’s post, I thought I would share it with you…

What up my guy?

It’s me.

Your friendly neighborhood bro. Bronaldinho. How are you?

I purchased your home address information off of the dark-web. I hope you don’t find that too intrusive.

I really like what you’ve done with Atlanta United. They’re honestly one of my favorite teams to watch and not just in Major League Soccer. It sort of makes me wish you owned the Austin team. Our owners seem alright, I guess. They’re just not putting out that sporting BDE quite like you are in Atlanta, sir.

We have a few pretty rich white dudes, but I don’t think they’re totally into this. They all showed up feeling depressed on picture day, so my guess is they won’t spend a dime on a big name. Toby is the only one projecting the “I don’t give a fuck” big dick swagger that we need.

We also have an actor guy who’s totally clueless about the sport. No one is exactly sure why he’s here, but he‘s like an unofficial mascot of our town, so we play along and let him feel like he’s important. We’re even going to let him lead the cheers for our fan section! And he’s 50!

Our majority owner used to own the Columbus team, but oh man, he tried to fuck them over really hard (LOL!). Whatever. Austin is way cooler than any Ohio city, and he is getting the new stadium he always wanted. He seems pretty chill.

But none of them have that Home Depot “fuck you money” like you Art. You used your funds/sports knowledge to put together the most exciting franchise Major League Soccer has ever seen, and you did it in record time. The major-market teams are worried about signing players with name recognition. You’re more concerned with finding young & entertaining talent that kicks ass.

Josef Martinez

Miguel Almiron (RIP to his MLS career)

Eziquiel Barco

These guys are all awesome (Barco has a little ways to go, but whatever). You fucking rock Mr. Blank.

I know that sports franchise owners love a good ego stroke, so I hope you enjoyed that. Now that you’re feeling great about yourself, I have a favor to ask of you. Would you mind calling up the Austin F.C. owners and give them a little shit? You know, throw your weight around a little, make them feel insignificant so they’re more inclined to spend big money on our debut designated players. That would be really great!

Thanks Art. I appreciate you.

Your dearest friend,

Bronaldinho

PS – Don’t waste your time calling McConohaughey. Fo real, he says a lot of silly shit…people usually listen, but they don’t take him seriously. Aight? L8er Art.

::

FIN

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