The view from near the top is certainly much better for the Austin.
After finishing the 2021 campaign, his first in MLS, near the bottom of the Western Conference, this second experience has been much more positive.
The Texan club is in second place. He is also second in goals scored in MLS, largely thanks to hot-playing Argentine striker Sebastian Driussi, and has shown that he can do what good teams do: Win on the road.
On Friday, the club announced a three-year extension to manager Josh Wolff’s contract to keep him until 2025.
But critical days are coming. Seven of the next nine matches will be away, beginning with a pair that begins this Saturday night at Real Salt Lake, four days before a visit to Los Angeles FC.
The points obtained in those commitments could consolidate Austin as a candidate for the title.
And back home, there are problems and risks behind the seemingly fun environment. Paraguayan striker Cecilio Domínguez has returned from a five-game suspension amid investigations by the club and the league into an apparent dispute with his partner.
Some sectors of the fans have not been willing to welcome him.
The former Paraguayan international, the club’s first signing under the figure of designated player, was suspended by MLS from all team activities on April 8. The decision was made as a result of the group reporting a situation involving his ex-partner in a residence.
Police went to the home in response to a call, but Dominguez was not arrested, and no charges were filed.
Domínguez remained inactive while the investigations continued their course. He had his suspension lifted last week, although the league ordered him to attend therapy.
The club reinstated him in its ranks under the terms of the collective agreement signed with the union.
It seems impossible that the Paraguayan is still one of the team’s most popular players. He did not play last week, in a 1-0 loss at home to the Los Angeles Galaxy. And the case has polarized some fans.
While some have supported the way the club handled the matter, two of the main fan groups protested against his return, holding 10 minutes of silence during the match and displaying banners condemning violence against women or they spread a telephone number of attention to victims.
Domínguez uses the 10 on the bibs. He has not spoken publicly about the matter.
Thus, a point of tension arose for a team whose passionate fans had vociferously supported it since its inception. In 23 straight games, Q2 Stadium has been sold out, the longest streak in MLS.
It has a capacity of 20,000 spectators.
And despite the Domínguez controversy, the stands continued to look packed last Sunday, in 37-degree heat.
“Everyone has the right to express their opinion,” Wolff said. “The league has reinstated Cecilio and we’ll move on… We’ll see what happens with Cecilio in time.”
Wolff said Dominguez is unlikely to play during the upcoming road games. He added that the team has good chemistry in the locker room and on the pitch, so he considers it unlikely that there will be fractures.
“I think we have a very strong team culture,” he emphasized. “As soon as he’s mentally and physically ready to play, he’ll be back on the court… We have great fans in this city and not only that, our community is tremendous. We are proud of that.”
Julio Cascante, a Costa Rican defender from Austin, said that Domínguez’s return to training this week went without any problem.
“We are professionals who train, as it should be,” he said. “We just keep working and thinking about the team.”
Driussi has been the main weapon of the team forward. He is tied for the season’s best scorer with seven goals and has provided three assists.
He was named MLS Player of the Month for April.