Updated: Feb 5, 2021
On January 15th 2021 Austin FC officially turned two years old. As the club approaches its inaugural season, Sporting Director Claudio Reyna and Head Coach Josh Wolff have been busy putting together a squad comprising of MLS veterans the likes of Nick Lima and Alex Ring, as well as international talent such as Cecilio Dominguez and Jhohan Romaña. The roster building so far has been solid; however, the upcoming MLS SuperDraft has raised a few questions as the club reaches its limit on senior players without having filled its Designated Player slots.
The club began signing players with the announcement Paraguayan international Rodney Redes in mid 2020. After a half-day transfer window, an Expansion Draft with a poached player, and a few free agent signings, the club now has a total of 17 players in their roster. At first glance the rapid fire increase in signings has been a joy to watch for fans, as we have seen the front office acquire key MLS veterans to round out the core of the roster. Nonetheless, this optimism comes with one worry: reaching the 20 player slot amount on our senior roster.
Austin was able to pick up some promising talent in the Expansion Draft with one limitation: these picks had to count towards the senior roster. This meant players like USYNT Goalkeeper Brady Scott and NYRB recruit Jared Stroud could not be assigned to the supplemental roster instead. Thus, Austin FC is now walking a tight rope, and the pressure is on to make good use of its -potentially- last few slots. These next few months will tell if the Twin Oaks can make the appropriate, impactful signings in the upcoming transfer windows.
There are whoever, a few silver linings. Three senior roster slots may not seem like much, but if filled with two Designated Players and one good TAM signing they can make all the difference to turn Austin’s already solid core into a lethal squad. Additionally, according to the 2020 MLS roster building rules, Austin FC can have up to 10 players in the Supplemental Roster category. This means we could potentially sign up to 4 players to the supplemental roster, so long as these players earn the Senior Minimum Salary of $81,375. We can also sign 3 players that must at least meet the Reserve Minimum Salary $63,547, along with 2 slots left open for homegrown players.
It is unclear how exactly Austin has negotiated with the players it has signed so far. Recently, Joe Corona did not come to a salary agreement with Austin FC and was instead drafted by Houston Dynamo FC in the re-entry draft. An event that, while confusing and controversial, could prove to be a blessing in disguise given the roster limitations.
It is also possible that the club has negotiated minimum salaries with some of our younger players, or those that are approaching their later years. For instance, a player like Jon Gallagher reportedly had a salary of $70,250 in 2019 (via The Denver Post) when playing for Atlanta United. Austin could give Gallagher a slight raise in his contract without reaching the Senior Roster threshold, thus opening up one of those coveted spots. The situation may look slightly worrisome, but I have faith that Reyna and Wolff will manage the player pool as is necessary to build a competitive team come the start of the season.
Written By: Francisco Ordaz IV