Soccer returns to Austin, but the path forward is perilous

On March 7th, 2020 the Austin Bold opened their season with a tidy 1 – 0 victory against New Mexico United in front a rowdy band of travelling New Mexicans and the passionate home support at Bold Stadium at Circuit of the Americas. A few days later on March 11th, Rudy Gobert would test positive for the novel virus Covid-19 and the NBA would suspend play starting a cascade that culminated in the suspension of all sports in the United States. Caught in the wave was the USL Championship (USL-C), announcing a minimum 30 day suspension of play on March 12th. In retrospect, that short stoppage was a naive underestimation of a virus that has shocked the world.

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2020 Austin Bold jersey leak

The Austin Bold will return this season in kits produced by BLK, an Australian sporting goods company. BLK is also responsible for the kits of El Paso Locomotive and the Las Vegas Lights with Las Vegas’ being among the best in the league. Incorporating exotic color palates and retro design features, BLK kits are set apart from the sometimes pedestrian offerings of the American lower leagues.

Yesterday, Las Vegas announced they will be featuring 17 different jerseys across the season, one for each home game. This is unorthodox in soccer and the zany designs befit the concept. The kits look like someone gave Jackson Pollack sprinkles and too much coffee.

Tomorrow, the Austin Bold will kick off against New Mexico United in their brand new digs. The club had wanted to reveal the jersey ahead of the season, but Coronavirus delayed manufacturing and the shipment did not arrive until earlier this week. Although there will be a full reveal before the match, one social-media happy player accidentally spilled the beans.

Here is your 2020 Austin Bold home jersey:

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2020 Austin Bold Season Preview

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:

Okay! So let’s dive in:

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Yeti announced as Austin FC founding partner and jersey sponsor

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.

So what to think of it all…

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KickerATX interview with Roberto Silva, GM of the Austin Bold

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.

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