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Driussi is our new captain, and that should worry Austin fans.

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

I bought a new jersey. The one that induces epilepsy. I’m gonna be proud of it, even if i hate the design, but I put the wrong name on the back of it. I got Fagúndez, and it was a mistake.

I don’t have a Sebastián Druissi jersey. And now that he’s the captain, well, I probably should have. Driussi should be our captain. He’s the engine of the offense, and frankly the front line of the defense as well for this team. He’s the best player on this team and the best player in the league. He does things that no man should be legally allowed to do. He absolutely should be the captain of this team.

But what about Alex Ring? I’ve told people over the offseason that I think Ring is nearing the end of his tenure here. He turns 32 in a month, and he’s got noticeable flaws that hold back this team which include:

  1. Can't finish with his feet (unless it’s with his head).

  2. Lack of passing creativity, and occasional loss of focus.

  3. No ability to dribble past defenders.

  4. The once-a-year lack of composure red card.

But this man was the most important player to our first season, and he still is our second most important player. The reason for our turnaround last year was two-fold. Driussi taking over, but also our Midfield becoming aggressive defensively. Our midfield pressed higher and harder in the middle of the pitch last year, and that resulted in a lot more turnovers, and slowed attacks against our soft back line. Part of that is due to Driussi’s aggressiveness defensively, but also thanks to Ring’s pressing skills, which cannot be understated. He’s the leader of the back line, and often, the one screaming back to make the last ditch tackle, especially his first year.

But he’s not the captain now.

You don’t switch the captain unless something is brewing. Continuity is key, especially coming off a miracle season, going from second to last to second to first. This tells me there is a changing of the guard in the midfield. Ring is going to remain a stalwart, but I don’t think Ring is going to be a shoe-in to start for us at the 8 any more (or the double pivot 6).

I think we're going to see a rotation at the midfield. Austin FC plays in three tournaments this season, and it became apparent last year, this team runs out of steam. Austin FC won most of its points coming at the beginning of the season, and right after the summer international break. This team runs out of gas, and the midfield especially. There's going to be rotation, and I think this is why they put the arm band on Driussi's arm. He'll play every game, but Ring won't be.

When Ring isn't there, then who is?

We brought in Sofiane Djeffal in the offseason, who’s an unproven commodity. He’s played one year in the MLS (with DC United). Jhojan Valencia is still on this roster, but he couldn’t carve out playing time last year (albeit he was injured for a lot of it) and when he was out there, he was a disaster.

Dani Pereira is a stud. The man rates as a top quadrant passing Midfielder. 91st percentile in passing rate, 85th percentile in take-on rates and 76th percentile in progressive passing. He’s in the starting rotation, but he lacks the defensive know-how Ring brings.

And then there’s Owen Wolff. This is the player I’m most excited for this year, and the player who I’m writing about today. He played few minutes in midfield last year, but I fully expect him to blast off this year. His passing percentage is higher than Pereira’s and his tackles, interceptions, and blocks rate higher than Ring’s on a per game basis. He's not as progressive, but he is smashing goals form outside the box this preseason. This is the jersey I should have bought. In this economy, you gotta buy low and sell high.

Even with my excitement for Wolff, what terrifies me is a midfield handled without Ring's experience, positioning and knowledge. I trust the skills of Wolff and Pereira, but I don’t trust their minds yet.

So, with Ring (potentially) stepping back I’m worried about how Coach Wolff will align these teams, and which players he’ll use. Both Valencia and Djeffal are hard defensive midfielders, but neither present much presence forward. Do you pair one of them with Pereira? Do you roll with the two young stars in Wolff and Pereira?

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