Heading into Austin FC’s inaugural season, my motto with respect to choosing black and verde players in fantasy is “wait and see.” We know that it takes time for expansion clubs to find their groove, and Los Verdes have a number of factors that make it difficult to predict how quickly they’ll succeed: a brand new group of players, a first-time head coach, and their first seven games on the road. However, Austin will have a slew of home games in the latter half of the season, and they should sign their third Designated Player in the summer, so several solid fantasy options could easily emerge out of Central Texas.
Players to Watch
Goalkeepers: Austin has three goalkeepers on their roster: veterans Andrew Tarbell and Brad Stuver, and youngster Brady Scott. Most fans expect that Tarbell, who played well for Columbus in the 2020 playoffs when Eloy Room was injured, will assume the starting spot. Tarbell should have a reasonable starting price, so he could be a good option if and when Austin’s back line clicks.
Defenders: Josh Wolff and Claudio Reyna have worked to build a defense with a mixture of veterans – Matt Besler, Nick Lima, and Ben Sweat – and newcomers or younger players. However, as mentioned above, the big question is whether this defense will click and how long it will take for them to do so.
If he earns a starting spot, a top defensive fantasy prospect will be young Colombian centerback Jhohan Romaña. An athletic, active defensive presence, he has the potential to rack up defensive bonus points, and expect to see him also venture forward as an aerial threat on corner kicks and set pieces.
Another defender with fantasy potential is 21-year-old Slovenian Žan Kolmanič, though he may take longer to establish himself, as he has not yet begun training with Austin. In recent play for Slovenia in the U21 European Championship, he has shown a willingness to push forward into the attack. If he challenges Ben Sweat for playing time at left fullback, that attacking mindset could easily turn into valuable fantasy points.
Midfielders: Austin’s roster is deepest in the midfield, where some interesting positional battles could arise. As in defense, the midfield is made up of MLS veterans, such as Alex Ring, Diego Fagundez, and Ulises Segura, and youngsters, including Daniel Pereira, the first overall pick in the 2021 Superdraft. Pereira has looked promising in initial preseason action, so keep an eye out for the rookie to challenge Fagundez for playing time or even a starting spot at attacking midfield.
The top fantasy option in the midfield has to be 25-year-old Designated Player Tomás Pochettino, who was acquired from Talleres in Argentina. However, he’ll likely play as more of an attack-oriented #8 than a creative #10, so don’t expect Toto to challenge the likes of Lodeiro, Pozuelo, or Valeri as an elite attacking midfielder in MLS Fantasy. I expect him to earn both offensive and defensive bonus points consistently but not necessarily get involved in every goal-scoring opportunity. As a result, he may end up with a high floor, but not the highest ceiling, when it comes to fantasy point production.
Forwards: The two top names to keep in mind among Austin’s forwards are Cecilio Domínguez and Danny Hoesen. Domínguez, a 26-year-old Paraguayan with experience at Club América and Atlético Independiente, was Austin’s first Designated Player signing. He’ll likely line up at left wing, and if Austin’s attack hits, it will be because Domínguez is creating and converting frequent goal-scoring opportunities.
Following four seasons in San Jose, Hoesen joins Austin after being selected first in the 2020 MLS Expansion Draft. The Dutchman will be hoping to regain his 2018 form, when he scored 12 goals, but that will depend on whether he stays healthy and if chances are being created for him in the box. If Hoesen is not the right fit as the #9, Austin’s third DP signing may well be another striker.