A Most Honest Austin FC Roster Review

Because honesty is the best policy

Before analyzing futbol talents and sharing opinions of those talents in any formal sense, one should know where they rank in the hierarchy of soccer wisdom. Identifying your grade ahead of time is paramount. This allows you to properly inform your audience of exactly who is informing them.

By not being candid with your grade, you give the reader carte blanche to assume you’re a battle-hardened soccer guru, an utter dipshit, or anything in between. This is where the Futbol Knowledge Pyramid comes into play.

Forget the term “analyst” in the the traditional sense. The Futbol Knowledge Pyramid views anyone with even a passing opinion of the game as an analyst, because we’re all analyzing the beautiful game to some degree. From the silverware hoarding manager dominating Europe, to the village idiot drunkenly shouting slurs in the pub, we all share a common thread.

We’re all analysts — but we’re certainly not the same. We fall into different tiers, and the breakdown looks like this:

I’m sure you’ve seen tiny blurbs displayed underneath the talking heads of sport, saying things like “Two-time MLS Cup Winning Coach” or “Three-Time Premier League Champion”. These lines act as reminders of a person’s highest achievements in the world of futbol and help to reinforce why the hell we should be listening to them blabber in the first place.

Here is a fun question: What would your tagline be?

“Soccer career peaked in high school.”

“Watches the Premier League, like, every weekend.”

“Managed multiple clubs in various editions of FIFA.”

“Local Soccer Podcaster who questions the decisions of professionals”

“3 Seasons Played in the Austin Sports and Social League” for teams named something like Let’s Get Messi, Beercelona or Josh’s Wolff Pack.

“Haven’t watched the game that long. Started a supporter’s group anyway. Unsure of what the people want.”

What all of your blurbs should actually read: “Tier 6 Futbol Analyst”

The gap between European glory and local “I told you so” bragging rights is True Experience — the kind of experience only acquired through vocations where your judgement of the game is directly tied to your own professional success or failure. (Ex: professional scout, professional player, professional manager, etc.). All of these people fall somewhere between Tiers 1 and 5, depending on their relative success within their practiced profession. For everyone else, there is still a place to call home: Tier 6.

Tier 6 is by far the most cozy tier to occupy, as you can rant and rave utter nonsense on a given day and at no time will your livelihood be affected. Be as audacious as you please, because when you question the decisions made by one of the world’s professionals (in time, you will see these questions sent in Josh Wolff/Claudio Reyna’s direction by T6’s) no one is there to reprimand you in any meaningful way. The stakes couldn’t be lower — kick back and relax

Armchair analysts. Know-it-alls. Unsophisticated assholes.

These are just some of the types of people who occupy Tier 6. These are the people who would question a decision made by someone like Jurgen Klopp and subsequently offer up how “they would have done it better.” These types of critiques could be related to personnel changes, tactics, transfers — anything having to do with the inner workings of a team that the Tier 6 analyst has only practiced in theory but never in reality.

Don’t twist my shit; there are plenty of fine folks who own real estate in the Tier 6 neighborhood. Not all of them are self-righteous whimps. The ones who can’t be placed in a negatively painted bucket are just the self-aware ones.

I am a Tier 6 analyst. The following is a casual rundown of Austin FC’s roster build.

The Collegiate Crew

Daniel Pereira (M) – Freddy Kleeman (D) – Aedan Stanley (D) – Daniel Steedman (M) – Noah Lawrence (GK)

Rock-solid info around these gentlemen is hard to come by. I don’t mean general stat mongering and conjecture, I mean a lot of them played very little — if any — college footy last year, so these players’ value in the longterm is anyone’s guess.

We shall see . . . but one thing is for certain; Daniel Pereira will be compared to Phillip Mayaka for all of his Major League Soccer days. It seems like every media person on God’s green Earth was certain Mayaka would land in ATX, only to have Austin FC snag Pereira with the first overall pick in the MLS Super Draft.

If you watched the first half hour of the Super Draft, you already witnessed the talking heads willingly admit to not knowing what the hell was going on. It seemed like every time they were certain of the next team’s selection, the professionals making the decisions went in a different direction. It was all very Tier 6-ish.

Being unopposed when picking first, it’s clear that Reyna/Wolff got their guy. Dan get’s sunshine and Austin City Limits, while Phil gets a moderate climate and legalized marijuana. Who ended up in the better club is TBD, but nothing beats catching Dave Chapelle at Stubbs or sipping cold Lonestars with barbecue, under string-lights and the violet crown. Welcome to ATX Dan.

Familiar MLS Faces

Kekuta Manneh (FW) – Matt Besler (D) – Diego Fagundez (M) – Brad Stuver (GK) – Andrew Tarbell (GK) – Hector Jimenez (D) – Alex Ring (M) – Brady Scott (GK) – Jared Stroud (M) – Danny Hoesen (FW) – Jon Gallagher (FW) – Julio Cascante (D) – Nick Lima (D) – Ulises Segura (M) – Ben Sweat (D) – Aaron Shoenfeld (FW)

A few names stick out here and they’re the only ones I feel equipped to offer anything resembling an opinion on — or even a passing thought. See below:

Danny Hoesen (FW) – I watched quite a few San Jose Quakes games some time ago and recall thinking Hoesen might have the grit to emerge as a star. He was always going to be overshadowed playing alongside the goal-scoring prowess of Chris Wondolowski, but maybe Austin is just what he needs to spread his wings and break some necks. Being thirty years old isn’t great, but I think Major League Soccer is more forgiving on age when compared to major European competitions.

Matt Besler (D) – I think most folks even remotely familiar with Major League Soccer know of Besler’s quaility. In some parallel universe, Austin FC played their first game five years ago, Besler was on the roster, and I’m convinced we have one of the best defenders in the league. Five years on, I don’t have the slightest clue what he has left in the tank. Here is where you would typically find bullshit filler regarding a veteran lockeroom presence, but I’m only concerned with not conceding goals. Let’s hope Sporting Kansas City regrets letting him go.

Kekuta Manneh (FW) – Regardless of what he achieves at the Q2, Manneh’s homecoming story makes this signing well worth any risk. His overlap with Josh Wolff in Columbus and previous time playing for the Austin Aztecs make Kekuta Manneh the feel-good story of ATXFC’s inaugural season. Instant fan-favorite, even if he’s coming off the bench.

Alex Ring (M) – The internet was buzzing when word of the Alex Ring signing got out. It seemed the World Wide Soccer Web could hardly keep their pants on when they heard Ring was moving from NYC to ATX. There’s a lot of buzz around Ring and I don’t know why; not because I doubt Ring’s abilities, but more because I can‘t recall watching NYCFC play. I caught most of the MLS Is Back tournament, and most of the MLS playoffs. Did NYCFC even play last season? The world may never know . . .

Nick Lima (D) – Nike Lima also received a healthy dose of hype and enthusiasm when picked up by ATXFC. Expansion team-building is difficult in any sport, but it feels like we have some genuine starters who would find their way onto most starting elevens in Major League Soccer. Big positive.

The Guarani Boys

Cecilia Dominguez (FW) – Rodney Redes (FW) – Johanna Romana (D)

I’m not sure how our front office identified Club Guarani, but once they did, it quickly became a South American playground for ATX talents. If you’re a regular viewer of the Paraguayan Primera Division, then you’re already well versed in what these gentlemen do/do not bring to the table — you’re also at the forefront of obscure soccer TV viewing.

This crew is easily the most intriguing because they bring the most promise with the least visual evidence. Romana is probably a longterm project, and our Young Designated Player, Rodney Redes, will hopefully develop fast. For bliss or misery, Dominguez is our team’s clear ”superstar” until we sign two additional DP’s.

I’ve done some “deep” (not at all, really) write ups for our DPs before (Rodney here and CD here), but it’s hard to say exactly what these guys will bring to the Q. Youtube clips of them shredding up guys in Paraguay look cool, but I’m not sure this success will directly translate to goals stateside.

Cecelio Dominguez has the longest track record, which fails to impress when viewing it on paper. Seeing him play a bit in South America leaves me feeling hopeful, but again, living in the 6th Tier, I’m unsure how meaningful these moments are at twenty-six years of age in a different hemisphere.

On the bright side, none of this really matters. Josh Wolff and Claudio Reyna believe he has what it takes and were willing allocate the funds to bring him here, so all is well. They’re the one’s who will have to deliver answers to ownership if these players aren’t up to snuff — not me. They’re also the ones who have spent their young and adult lives dedicated to this game — not me.

I like what J/C have done with the team, and I’m pleasantly surprised it turned out this well. But if history is recorded to teach us lessons in the future, putting up a winning record will prove difficult in our inaugural season. Just food for thought:

New Franchise (entry year)Inaugural Season Record W – L – T
Orlando City FC (2015)12 – 14 – 8
NYCFC (2015)10 – 17 – 7
Minnesota United (2017)10 – 18 – 6
Atlanta United (2017)15 – 9 – 10
LAFC (2018)16 – 9 – 9
FC Cincinnati (2019)6 – 22 – 6
Inter Miami (2020)7 – 13 – 3
Nashville SC (2020)8 – 7 – 8

At the end of the day — and I think I speak for most of Austin when saying — I’m not sure I care how well Austin FC plays in their inaugural season as long as I have an overpriced stadium beer in hand, my very expensive seat is cushioning my backside, and the team is remotely competitive, or as competitive as one should realistically expect from an expansion franchise. Not having the sun burning a hole in my retinas would be an added bonus.

Onward and upward from here, Austin’s F.C. There’s only one way to go.