With the USL Championship opening on March 7th fast-approaching, I thought it would be a good time to look at the Austin Bold and see how the squad is shaping up for the 2020 season. As discussed in our interview with Bold GM Roberto Silva, most of the 2019 squad is returning. Nonetheless there have been some departures. Francis Atuehene returned to FC Dallas after his loan expired and Demar Phillips, Calum Mallace, and a handful of other role players moved on in free agency. Finally, tragedy struck near the end of last season when Promise Isaac died suddenly leaving the team without a key player and teammate.
On the incoming side of business, the bold have signed Ismailia Jome, a rangy fullback with a cultured left foot, Billy Forbes, an experienced winger, and loaned in Brecc Evans, a promising center back, and Ema Twumasi, a returning top-performer, from partner club FC Dallas.
During my interview with Roberto Silva I was able to learn a little more about player transfers that has not yet been announced by the club:
Young Brazilian center back Gustavo Rissi will be returning to the club on loan this year. The player announcement is awaiting the final touches to the paperwork.
Silva mentioned two young Senegalese players from Monteverde Academy in Florida that the club is trying to sign. One plays as a defensive midfield and the other as an attacking winger. Silva said both are excellent players so fingers crossed the club can get their visas across the line.
Alfredo Paez, the club’s marketing coordinator, played soccer at the university level in the United States. Marcelo Serrano was using him as practice player to make numbers and, due to his strong performance, received playing time in the friendly against FC Dallas. He already works for the club so does that mean he’s already technically signed?
Early yesterday morning there were Twitter rumblings that Austin FC’s upcoming press conference was scheduled to announce Yeti as AFC’s jersey sponsor. Those predictions came true as Matthew McConaughey, Claudio Reyna, and other club bigwigs met with Matt Reintjes, Yeti’s president and CEO , and his retinue to announce a multi-year sponsorship. Although financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, the number floating around is $4 million per year which would put sponsorship price tag among the highest in the league.
Roberto Silva came to the United States with, “a wife, two kids, and nine bags.” He moved to Austin simply because his sister lived here. However, with his experience in the business offices of some of Brazil’s top clubs, Silva became involved with the Austin Aztex during their exciting, but doomed 2015 season. He was promoted to GM after the 2015 Memorial Day floods destroyed the club’s House Park home, but the rot was too deep and the Aztex could not recover dissolving in 2017. Professional soccer was yet again lost to ATX.
That is until last year when Bobby Epstein, owner of Circuit of the Americas (COTA), fielded the Austin Bold for the 2019 USL Championship season. Between the collapse of the Aztex and the birth of the Bold, Roberto Silva worked as the Director of Special Events at COTA. So when the Bold came about, the perfect man for the job was already on staff.
It’s probably fair to say no one man has done more for the club than the affable Brazilian. He brought on manager and countryman Marcelo Serrano, manages player scouting and acquisitions, and all business aspects of club. Together with Serrano, Silva was able to recruit talented and experienced players from around the globe. Kléber, nicknamed “Gladiator”, has scored 200-some goals in Brazil’s top division. Edson Braafheid, a former Dutch international, has featured for Bayern Munich, and played in the 2010 World Cup Final. Xavi Báez was a Liga MX mainstay with over 200 appearances for Chivas Guadalajara. This wasn’t your average USL Championship squad.
Despite, or more likely because of, the unorthodox team design, the Bold performed well for an expansion club. They were able to slug their way to 8th in the Western Conference securing a play-off spot and beating LA Galaxy II in the first round to advance to a Conference Quarterfinal against Phoenix Rising. Playing away from home at a sold-out stadium, the Bold produced a stubborn 0-0 result and only lost after a penalty shoot-out that went 9 players deep ending 8-7.
Now entering their sophomore season, Kicker ATX got a chance to sit down with Roberto Silva ahead of the Bold’s first preseason match Sunday February 9th against FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium in Frisco.