All indications are that fresh Austin FC catch Sebastian Driussi will enjoy his debut in Saturday's Copa Tejas match at FC Dallas (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+), and I'm betting most fans of the club, and Major League Soccer in general, have little idea of what to expect from the Designated Player signing.
Unless you spent time watching Russian Premier League soccer over the last four years, there's a good chance you've never even seen the 25-year-old Argentine ace play a match. As it just so happens, my lady is from St. Petersburg, so I've actually been on hand to see Driussi play for erstwhile employers Zenit several times.
As we're always here to help, it only seemed proper to give everyone the lowdown on how Driussi got here, what ways and means he's brought with him, and how he may fare fitting into the Austin FC lineup. Let's get started at the beginning.
Driussi came up through the famous River Plate youth set-up to make his first-team debut at 17. He gradually got the hang of things over the next few years, and then exploded for 21 goals between league play and Copa Libertadores in 2017.
Zenit St. Petersburg had clearly seen enough at that point, so they brought him over to Russia for roughly a $17.5 million dollar fee. Driussi was solid in his first season and excellent in his second, notching 12 goals and 10 helpers across all competitions. The next two campaigns saw him used further from goal more often, and his counting stat tallies predictably fell off quite a bit.
Although Driussi saw fairly regular action with Argentina's Under-17 and Under-20 sides, he has yet to receive a senior team summons. There was some talk a few years back of Italy trying to call him up, but nothing ever came of it.
Well, that depends on how new boss Josh Wolff wants to use him. He definitely has options. Driussi is not a prototype center striker by any means, but he can play as a very Alan Pulido-esque forward. He'll run off the shoulder one minute, and then drop into the hole to play a runner through the next. While he'll bag a free header just fine, Driussi is not going to win many stern aerial challenges.
Though he has the skills to operate as a winger or play as a No. 10, he's also not a textbook fit at either of these positions. The ideal situation would see him running off a strong lead striker as the freer-to-roam support forward. Driussi loves to time late runs up the gut to overload the opposing center backs, but Austin FC's staff will want to push him to look for his own shot off the dribble more often. He did that back in his River Plate days, but was more often a link player for Zenit.
Some of Driussi's strengths apply wherever he fits into Austin FC's formation on a given day. He's good with both feet, but generally prefers to operate from the left channels. The 25-year-old does outstanding pressure valve work to get his team out of their end and knows when to slow things down so the team can organize their build or adjust the tempo. He's always eager to close down an opposing ball carrier regardless of field locale, which makes him a pressure weapon.
Well, that's the big question Wolff must answer. Until the club can get Moussa Djitte on the ground in Austin, Driussi may need to pull out his scoring boots to play up top. I wouldn't call him a false nine, but he's a roving busybody like Pulido that won't just look to finish plays. It seems a fair bet he'd enjoy the bending entry feeds of Zan Kolmanic and Tomas Pochettino, though.
The big decision doesn't arrive until Djitte, a more standard type of front runner, can be integrated into the side. Driussi works well as a left wing, but that's the spot Cecilio Dominguez prefers. All things considered (read: neither cares to work from the right much), the simplest solution seems the best solution: Give him the second forward role (or call it a cheating No. 10 if you prefer).
The thought of Driussi floating underneath the harassing runs of Djitte, creating combos with Dominguez or making those late bursts up the middle all make sense. And if Wolff needs to change things up for any reason, his newest charge has the versatility to shift elsewhere.
Driussi probably isn't going to approach Zlatan/Giovinco/Vela type numbers, but so much of his value comes from making the team function smoothly. He's got the skills for the big play, but never forgets to do the little things.
Don't take that preamble as a way of saying he won't get on the score sheet. With 18 games left in the season, Austin FC's newest chess piece should have no problem racking up at least a half-dozen goals and half-dozen assists the rest of the way.