Building a roster from scratch is a unique experience — even as MLS continues to expand — that is both exciting yet daunting.
Theoretically, sporting director Claudio Reyna and company can choose from the entire globe to fill Austin FC's coveted roster spots ahead of joining the league in 2021. But it creates something close to a a paradox of choice, and these decisions will lay the foundation of the franchise for years to come. Things are much easier when the building blocks upon which the rest of the roster lays are sturdy. On Monday, Austin invested in a key foundational piece.
The club unveiled their first-ever Designated Player, Paraguayan winger Cecilio Dominguez from Argentine club Independiente. Through extensive scouting as well as plenty of conversations with the player, Austin are convinced they chose wisely.
“Combining his quality, ability to get goals, create chances and work for the team at his age — he turned 26 a few days ago — really convinced us," sporting director Claudio Reyna told reporters on a conference call. "Lastly, he is really committed to wanting to come to Austin FC. Everything together gave us the confidence.”
Dominguez is a dynamic, goalscoring winger who made his name in the region during a stint with Liga MX's Club América from 2017-19 before joining Independiente. The move to Independiente didn't completely go to plan, but he still turned in eight goals and six assists across 42 appearances (33 starts) during his time in Argentina.
Reyna adds that Dominguez is likely to head to Paraguay on loan until 2021, but they haven't finalized his destination.
Just entering his prime, Dominguez should have his best years ahead of him in an Austin kit. The profile for DPs in MLS has skewed younger and younger in recent years. Recent expansion clubs have balanced key signings with youth and in-their-prime players. LAFC had Carlos Vela from day one to go with the younger Diego Rossi, Inter Miami had Rodolfo Pizarro with Matias Pellegrini and Nashville SC had Hany Mukhtar with Randall Leal. Now, Austin have a 26-year-old Dominguez with 20-year-old Rodney Redes.
“It’s very important. His profile, age and experience is akin to the type of DP we were looking for," Reyna said. "He’s dangerous, scores goals, creates goals … and is multi-dimensional in his attacking strength. It was part of the decision, it excites us that he just turned 26. His prime is ahead of him, we’re excited to help him achieve his potential.”
Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff is excited about having Dominguez at his disposal.
Wolff wants Austin to predominantly be a possession-based team that is also dynamic in transition. Dominguez fit the profile the club desired from a wide player, one that fit the possession-based ethos as well as the ability to both score and create goals.
“Getting Cecilio at 26 is extremely helpful for us. It’s how we want to identify with our fanbase with the way we play," Wolff said. "A guy in his prime, an offensive cleverness and quality about him. It also sends a message to the other players we’re trying to recruit: This is the way we want to play and the expectations we have as a club.”