Austin FC center back Julio Cascante out long-term with injury

Julio Cascante

Austin FC have confirmed an early-season injury blow, announcing Tuesday that starting center back Julio Cascante is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a severe left adductor strain.

The 29-year-old Costa Rican defender will be re-evaluated in eight weeks after sustaining the injury during Saturday's 3-2 Matchday 1 loss to St. Louis CITY SC. Austin confirmed that Cascante won't require surgery.

Cascante, who spent 2018-20 with the Portland Timbers, started 58 games across the last two seasons as Austin's expansion journey took root. He contributed five goals and six assists across that span. 

Big picture

Last year's Western Conference finalists are now without their first-choice pairing in central defense from 2022. During the winter, Ruben Gabrielsen returned to his native Norway after just one season for personal reasons. The Verde & Black replaced Gabrielsen with Finnish international Leo Väisänen, who played the full 90 minutes against St. Louis.

Cascante left Saturday's season opener in the 11th minute and was replaced by Kipp Keller. The fifth overall pick of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas struggled as the expansion side scored twice late to leave Q2 Stadium with all three points.

Austin also have Egyptian-American Amro Tarek, acquired during the offseason, as an option at center back. Should the club want to pursue external options, MLS's Primary Transfer Window remains open through April 24. They could survey the intra-league trade or loan market, too.

What's next?

Positional depth could become an issue for head coach Josh Wolff, as the club embark on both the Concacaf Champions League and expanded Leagues Cup tournaments this year, in addition to the new MLS season and US Open Cup.

The Verde & Black make their CCL debut on March 7 against Haiti's Violette AC, three days after hosting CF Montréal for a Matchday 2 fixture (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).