From a roster-building standpoint, this week may be the busiest of all for Austin FC.
The expansion club were extremely active during MLS's half-day trade window on Sunday before launching fully into preparation for the 2020 Expansion Draft on Tuesday at 6 pm ET. End-of-year Waivers kicks off Wednesday, ditto for free agency, before the Re-Entry Draft on Thursday.
On Saturday night, Austin officially had two players under contract. By Sunday it was seven. On Tuesday night it could be 12 or more. The number is going to keep rising and it's going to happen fast.
“We have a lot of parallel things running at the moment," Sporting director Claudio Reyna told media on Sunday. "We continue to scout and have conversations with players internationally. ... With all the pieces we’ve added, it’ll guide some of the decisions we’ll make based on position, experience, age, profile, salary hit. It’s still a lot of work to do.
“It’s busy, but it’s been a lot of fun, to be honest," Reyna added. "It’s going to be another week that just flies by.”
Austin have had a slower build than previous expansion teams, given that they had only two players signed before the entire league hit the offseason, but few things have been normal in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Austin are comfortable with where things heading into Tuesday's Expansion Draft.
Here's a look at how that roster is shaping up.
Players signed (7): Julio Cascante, Cecilio Dominguez, Jon Gallagher, Nick Lima Rodney Redes, Ulises Segura and Ben Sweat
The current roster breakdown includes: Three wingers, one right back, one left back, one center back and one attacking midfielder. There is a long way to go.
Austin's first two additions are their only two international players (so far) in Paraguayan attackers Rodney Redes and Cecilio Dominguez. Dominguez is a Designated Player and will be one of their key players whenever the roster is fully built ahead of the 2021 season.
Austin FC's first DP, Cecilio Dominguez | Reuters/Action Images
The 26-year-old is in his prime and cost the club a reported $4 million transfer fee. On loan at Guarani in Paraguay, he has five goals and four assists in just over 1,000 minutes in all competitions. Redes, 20, is also on loan at Guarani and has six goals and four assists in his senior career with the club.
Moving further back on the field, Austin added a few players you'd expect would be penciled in as starters in this (very early) view of their depth chart, including Nick Lima. Austin sent $500,000 GAM to the San Jose Earthquakes for the US national team fullback.
“We value Nick highly," Reyna said. "He’s coming into the peak years of his career at 26 and he’s been a consistent performer for San Jose. He understands our league, he gets up and down and we feel he’ll add even more off the field. He’s a great leader, a great character. ... The deal was well worth it. We try to make decisions based off value and we believe he was worth that amount. San Jose lost a good player, it wasn't so easy a negotiation, but we felt absolutely he was worth it for what he'll add to the team."
Lima has made 100 appearances in MLS after signing a homegrown contract with the Quakes and has featured extensively at both right and left back, though is naturally a right-sided defender.
"There are a lot of good things you can say about Nick," head coach Josh Wolff said. "We see qualities on both the offensive and defensive end, he’s a good model of consistency in our league. His willingness to work and capacity to run are exceptional, then his final ball and quality around the box are equally good.”
Lima headlined the five trades Austin made on Sunday, but added a number of MLSers, including Ben Sweat.
Sweat, 29, started 20 of Miami's 23 matches in their expansion season, and he's a player Reyna knows well having originally acquired him for NYCFC in 2017 during his time as sporting director of that club. He's likely to soak up a good number of minutes at left fullback in a back four or the left sided central defender in a back three.
Julio Cascante, Jon Gallagher and Ulises Segura all arrived during the half-day trade window on Sunday as well. All three figure to at least be key rotational players if not regular starters in some cases.
Austin's roster continues to take shape. They'll be nearly halfway done with their inaugural roster build by Tuesday night.