Missing link? Maxi Urruti "exactly what Austin FC needed" for Western Conference push

Maxi Urruti has lived somewhat of a nomadic experience in Major League Soccer, playing for six different teams in 10 years. But the veteran Argentine forward appears to have found a home in Austin and is perhaps the X-factor as the second-year MLS side is near the top of the Western Conference table following a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night at Q2 Stadium.

Urruti has scored four goals in eight appearances this season, including a brace against the Whitecaps. His move to Austin as a free agent signing in late December was a bit unheralded. But if early returns are any indication, Urruti appears to be a massive puzzle piece for Austin, on and off the field.

“I’m sure there are people out there that doubted when he came here if he was going to make such an impact,” said goalkeeper Brad Stuver after Austin FC improved to 4W-0L-1D at Q2 Stadium. "For us, he’s exactly what we needed – his work ethic on the field, his off-the-field camaraderie and obviously he's scoring goals for us. He's been fantastic.”

Urruti immediately formed a bond with fellow Argentine Sebastian Driussi, who is an early Landon Donovan MVP candidate with six goals and three assists in eight matches to date. And they’ve both worked well with Uruguayan winger Diego Fagundez.

“The understanding, familiarity, familial effect Diego, Sebastian, Maxi, you can see it, you can sense it, they play at a different tempo at times, their combination play,” Austin head coach Josh Wolff said. “But he's doing a good job. I think it's been an excellent fit for him what we want to do. He just has to keep pushing his performances. There’s a higher level for him. I don't know what his highest goal total was for a year, but we want to challenge that. We want to push that.”

That answer is 12 goals for FC Dallas, the first club of his Texas triumvirate, back in 2017. Urruti hasn’t scored more than eight goals in a season since.

But Wolff has been impressed with some of the intangibles Urruti brings as well.

“His work rate has always been off the charts, his back pressing has been something we've always talked about so when the opportunity was there to get him, I had conversations with players and directly with him," Wolff said. “He fits [the system] well. Our defending starts with our front three, four guys and then that player also has to be able to arrive in front of goal, stretch the line, be able to link play up as well.”

There’s also the effect lighthearted Urruti has in the locker room to an already tight-knit group. The camaraderie has improved, thanks in part to Urruti’s work on the grill with Stuver rating his chimichurri the last barbecue at the training facility.

“We had a good locker room last year, results weren't going out way, but adding pieces like that, just bringing in that lightheartedness, can really turn everyone's mentality into something different,” Stuver said. “Instead of one guy being happy all the time, it's contagious, it's infectious. He has that personality where people gravitate toward him and feed off his energy. That’s why he’s able to stay in this league for so long.”