Austin FC sporting director on building competitive roster: ‘You never know, this was all on paper’

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna has done this before. Reyna helped build expansion team New York City FC in 2013 and the franchise was an immediate Major League Soccer success.

Three games in at Austin FC and his latest build is making an immediate impact around the league. Austin FC is off to a 2-1 start with back-to-back wins after the opening loss at Los Angeles FC.

“We certainly believed in the roster and the players and that’s why we brought everybody here,” said Reyna. “You never know, this was all on paper until we started to train and get together and practice on the field and now play games. We want more, Josh (Wolff) and I want more.”

Reyna brought in a mix of international players, who have never played in the MLS, like designated players Cecilio Dominguez and Tomas Pochetinno, as well as a number of MLS veterans with something to prove.

“There are players in this league for whatever reason go through a slight dip and may fall out of favor with a certain club or there’s someone else ahead of them or there’s an injury. We identify those players. They come with a chip on their shoulder with something to prove, the coaching staff has done a great job of making them feel good about themselves,” Reyna said.

MLS veteran Diego Fagundez will always be etched in Austin FC history by scoring the club’s first-ever goal, and the only goal in Saturday’s win at Minnesota. However, Reyna started with the captain when talking about veterans who have stepped up.

“Alex Ring has been a real heartbeat and central figure in keeping the team organized in midfield, winning a lot duels, controlling the tempo for us,” Reyna said.

Reyna has also noticed the impact Austin FC has had and continues to have at home where fans still have to wait more than a month for that first home match on June 19.

“It’s certainly exceeded all of our expectations, we knew that Austin is an amazing city, a soccer city, to see how quickly they’ve gotten behind the team. I think Colorado was sort of a ‘wow’ moment when we made all the noise in that stadium, our supporters traveling there, being part of that first-ever win and seeing all the watch parties back home,” Reyna said.

On Saturday, Austin FC opened its first merchandise store which was another example of the amazing support that this club is receiving.

“Having lines all they way out…wrapping around the stadium was incredible. It absolutely has not gone unnoticed by the players and staff. It’s motivating for us, we want to keep going. We want to win as many games as we can on this early road trip,” Reyna said.

Sporting Kansas City is up next on Austin’s seven-game, road trip. Kick off is Sunday at 6:30 p.m. It will be a homecoming for veteran defender Matt Besler, who played his entire 12-year MLS career in Kansas City before signing with Austin in January.

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