Austin FC officially now have two players rostered for their inaugural campaign in Major League Soccer.
The vision is still very much in its infancy, but 20-year-old attacker Rodney Redes is now joined by 26-year-old Paraguay international Cecilio Dominguez, who was signed Monday as a Designated Player. Two down, about 28 more to go.
Dominguez is the club's first DP and while sporting director Claudio Reyna didn't promise three DPs by opening day, he expects those slots will be filled before their 2021 launch.
“We’re exploring it, keeping options open. Eventually we’ll plan on filling three DP slots in 2021. It’s just how we use them," Reyna told MLSsoccer.com on Monday.
Flexibility is a key sticking point for Austin. They don't want to race to fill their spots or spend their money, but also don't want to drag their feet and miss opportunities. It's a balancing act.
The lessened transfer market provides a unique opportunity for Austin FC. Simply put, it's a buyer's market. And Austin have plenty of buying needs.
In theory, their budget and roster slots should go further given there are deals to be found as clubs across the globe look to trim their wage budget and expenditures amid financial pitfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though some general managers and agents around the league have theorized that these forces might be more profound in the winter – when clubs fully grasp their financial situation – Austin won't be short of options.
“We’re exploring opportunities, they just need to fit," Reyna said. "There are a lot of conversations going on, there’s so much interest in Austin FC. What tends to happen, once you have that first and second signing, people wake up. There’s more people reaching out, there’s more options. As we grow every month, every week and people learn more about Austin FC, you start hearing from more agents and more players. That’s exciting."
Austin have been consistent in their proclamations that head coach Josh Wolff's squad will play possession-based, aesthetically-pleasing and attacking soccer. Dominguez and Redes, two dynamic attackers, symbolize that desire.
“There’s a balance we want to go about in how we build our roster," Wolff said. "It’s in a few ways. International versus domestic, the balance of ages. Developing players and veterans who can set the culture in the locker room.”
As has been normal in recent expansion projects, there isn't typically a ton of movement on the domestic side until the offseason. Teams are still playing and there's not a huge rush in getting deals done before the winter with mechanisms like the Expansion Draft, Re-Entry Draft and more. The incumbent MLS sides will have a better idea of their plans for the next season, too.
Austin expect a similar set of circumstances. The international players they acquire ahead of the offseason will help inform what domestic players to go after this winter through the various acquisition mechanisms afforded to expansion sides, plus there's the treasure trove of allocation money they'll receive.
“As we’re able to find and sign players prior to the end of the year, it allows us to focus on what we need to look for the Expansion Draft, Re-Entry Draft and free agency," Wolff said. "We’ve created lists upon lists for potential targets.”
For now, it comes back down to balance and flexibility.
“We have no shortage of options. It’s just the work of going through them, finding that balance of pulling the trigger, making the decision and waiting," Reyna said. "You have to be flexible throughout. We’re really busy.”