Austin FC show "grit and resiliency" despite Sebastián Driussi injury


Austin FC, amid their challenging start to the 2023 campaign, must confront a new challenge: Sebastián Driussi is out after picking up a groin strain midweek.

Verde & Black head coach Josh Wolff, speaking after Saturday’s 2-2 draw at the Portland Timbers, stayed clear of providing a specific recovery timeline. Their star player wasn't in the matchday squad.

“It's something that could keep him out for a little bit,” Wolff said. “It's not the best time, but he was desperate to be with his teammates here in Portland. He's the captain, he's the leader of this team.”

Next man up

Few players league-wide are more singularly important to their club, as Driussi was the Landon Donovan MLS MVP runner-up in 2022 with 22 goals and seven assists in 34 regular-season games. So far this year, the Argentine No. 10 has two goals and one assist in nine regular-season games. 

While Driussi’s production levels have dropped off, that’s arguably more of a team-wide issue. Austin sit 12th in the Western Conference table with nearly one-third of the season completed, struggling to recapture the form that brought them to the Western Conference Final in 2022.

And now, as they did at Portland behind comeback goals from Jon Gallagher and Will Bruin, Wolff stressed others must step up. 

“I'm glad to see all of our guys contributing,” said Wolff. “That's the only way this works. Seba wearing a Superman cape like he did last year down the stretch, you can't rely on that so much.”

Wolff also intimated his son and homegrown midfielder, Owen Wolff, could miss a month while representing the United States at the upcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina. That’s on top of being without key winger Diego Fagundez (right groin), though ATX expect him back in “maybe in a week or two.”

Yet there was some positive injury-related news in Portland as well: center back Julio Cascante returned after missing the last 10 weeks with a severe left adductor strain he suffered back on Matchday 1. Austin, as a result, played with a three-man backline and wingbacks.

“We wanted Julio to get 75 minutes tonight and he was able to do that successfully, so that bodes well for him and for the group,” said Wolff. “He gives us calm, quality on the ball. His box defending is fantastic. He gives us another big, big threat on set pieces.”

"We deserved three points"

Taking the good with the bad, Wolff stressed several times in his postgame press conference how he felt Austin were strong enough to win at Providence Park. The draw, he said, was more a byproduct of preventable goals before Bruin’s 92nd-minute dramatics salvaged a point.

“Obviously disappointing to only get a tie; I think we deserved three points,” said Wolff. “We came from behind twice, which I think again shows our group's grit and resiliency as they had last week also. It's a performance worthy of three points and we will build off it.”

Austin have gone nearly two months without a win, stuck in a 0W-3L-4D stretch. But Wolff takes confidence from their last two performances, which includes a 2-2 draw vs. the San Jose Earthquakes at home last weekend. That latter result broke a three-game goalless stretch.

“We put ourselves behind a couple times, but like last week we should have won the game,” Wolff said. “Like previous games, we should have won games. You shouldn't have to score three goals every game to win, so I think that's part of it as well.”

Big picture, Wolff said what matters is Austin find themselves late in the year. They have 24 regular-season matches to go, and the West’s top nine teams will make the postseason.

“I don't know what place we're in right now, [but] I'm not too concerned about now,” Wolff said. “I think the end of the season is what's most important. We've got to keep getting better, which I think is clearly the case over the last two performances, and we've got to have more ruthlessness and certainly determination to muster up and be on the other side of draws. We've got to win some of these games.”