MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Sebastian Driussi: Austin FC’s missing piece?

Sebastián Driussi – Zenit – eyes ball

Austin FC have had plenty of promising moments, passages and even full matches during their expansion season.

Josh Wolff’s possession-based game model is both easy on the eye in the buildup and easy to identify. Intra-MLS additions like Alex Ring, Nick Lima and Diego Fagundez have impressed. Key acquisitions from abroad like Cecilio Dominguez, Zan Kolmanic and others have found varying degrees of success.

Yet, still, Austin sit bottom of the Western Conference because there’s something missing. Crucially, the most precious currency in the sport that decides how points are earned and games are won: Goals.

Austin are tied for bottom of the league in that category with 10, all while underperforming their expected goals total of 16.16 by -6.16, third-worst in MLS. They're ninth in chances created from open play but fourth-worst in big chance conversion rate, at just 30%.

They hope those frustrations soon may change, though. The club believe they have filled the chasm, by identifying and acquiring what club brass hopes is the final piece in Argentine striker Sebastian Driussi, who officially signed as a Designated Player on Thursday.

“We needed extra creativity, punch, courage and quality in the attacking third,” sporting director Claudio Reyna told media on Thursday. “That’s exactly what Sebastian brings. He gets in tight areas where you have to make the right decisions, those spaces where top players excel. That’s what we felt was missing, he’s that person who will unlock defenses and he works hard for the team. He’s someone who will complement what we have, but his offensive threat is something we’re excited about.”

Driussi was most recently with Zenit St. Petersburg before exercising a contract buyout. During his time in Russia, the 25-year-old had 24 goals and 22 assists in 138 appearances. He originally broke through with Argentine powerhouse River Plate, with 27 goals and eight assists during his time there. His prowess with River, and various Argentine youth national teams, earned him a reported $17 million price tag in his move to Zenit.

“It’s pressure,” Driussi admitted through a translator, “but it’s a nice kind of pressure. I’m very excited and looking forward to starting. I’m prepared.”

Reyna noted he hopes Driussi will be ready and available to debut on Wednesday against Houston Dynamo FC, though if not, the following Saturday against FC Dallas.

To many, the idea the club would need an attacking boost doesn’t come as a surprise. Austin entered the season with two natural center forwards, two players with MLS experience but not a ton of top-level success. Danny Hoesen scored double-digit goals in MLS only once, while Aaron Schoenfeld didn’t earn a consistent starting role either before he left for Israel, where he excelled, nor when he returned in 2020.

“We wanted to give the squad time to watch it come together,” Reyna said. “In the summer, we were always going to make additions. We unfortunately had some injuries where we had to react and make an addition, particularly with Moussa Djitte.”

Hoesen played five games before suffering a long-term injury that may keep him out the entire season. Schoenfeld is yet to debut with injuries of his own. Djitte, signed earlier this summer, hasn’t yet been eligible to debut as he awaits his visa. Since Hoesen went down, natural winger Dominguez has featured often as a false nine.

Driussi joins Dominguez and Tomas Pochettino as the club's three DPs.

“This club is growing, it’s their first year,” Driussi said. “I think this club can do a great job, I’m working to do my very best. this is a good step in my career, it’s a big challenge. I look forward to being on the pitch.”

With the club's attacking core now in place, Austin are looking to springboard forward and give the fans at Q2 Stadium more excitement.

"It speaks to everything we’re building here that we can attract someone like Sebastian at this stage of his career," Reyna said. "It’s an exciting day, a special day.”