All winter long, Austin FC will be in the spotlight across MLS as they build their inaugural roster. That was very much the case Thursday.
Austin announced the acquisition of midfielder Alexander Ring from NYCFC in exchange for $750,000 in General Allocation Money plus another $500,000 GAM in performance-based incentives. It's a huge sum for a very good player.
The 29-year-old can play as a defensive midfielder, a more box-to-box role and even played some as a winger in 2020 for NYCFC. But expect him to be a stalwart in central midfield for Austin.
Here's what went into the blockbuster deal for both clubs.
For Austin FC...
For the next few years, for almost every single game Austin play that he's available, Ring will be a starter in central midfield.
That's the starting point for Austin: They're getting a proven MLS midfielder and such a deal was never going to be cheap. Now they don't have to worry about one of their three midfield spots in the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 they will play out of.
Head coach Josh Wolff has promised possession-based, exciting soccer in Austin. Ring will aid in that while also adding bite and defensive qualities at the heart of midfield.
Watch: Claudio Reyna discusses Alex Ring trade on Extratime
On top of his on-field production, Ring will help cultivate the club's culture from day one. Sporting director Claudio Reyna knows a thing or two about him, too. Reyna was in charge of NYCFC when the club acquired Ring in 2017 and now is trading for him three seasons later to be one of the cornerstones of Austin FC.
"He has been a key piece in one of the best MLS teams in the last four to five years," Reyna said in a club statement. "He sets a high standard in training and is someone who is a top professional. Alex will be a great addition to our club.”
McCarty got the armband and helped set the culture. Zimmerman was acquired for a similar outlay of GAM as Ring and then anchored statistically the best defense in an expansion season in league history. Those successes probably made it easier to part with such a significant portion of GAM to get a known, dependable quality.
Given that quality, it wasn't an easy decision for NYCFC to part ways with their captain, a player who has been an automatic starter since arriving from Kaiserslautern in 2017. The fan-favorite has started 112 of 125 of the games NYCFC have played since they signed him. He was among the league's best and most consistent defensive midfielders.
But they got quite the haul for him.
If the performance-based incentives are hit and Austin send the full $1.25 million GAM, that will be very useful as the squad evolves and changes.
It doesn't hurt that they have a number of capable players already in the midfield either. James Sands and Keaton Parks are likely the unquestioned starters, while the success of that pairing forced head coach Ronny Deila to use Ring as a winger to get all three on the field before Sands got hurt. It also opens the door for Nicolas Acevedo (and maybe homegrown midfielder Justin Haak).
Acevedo, though, is an intriguing talent. The Uruguayan youth international made just one MLS start in 2020 but comes with a huge pedigree as he was named “Joven Talento del 2019” by the Uruguayan Football Association, as the best U-21 player in the domestic league, before joining NYCFC.
Haak, 19, is a US youth international too.
Reinforcements for NYCFC will be coming as well. They have two open Designated Player spots, international roster spots and now plenty of GAM and salary cap flexibility. It'll be a busy winter for the Cityzens.