Identity issues plague Aztex
Players: Winning, marketing, stadium among top concerns.
The Austin market’s impressive viewership for the Women’s World Cup has left some Aztex players wondering how their USL franchise can tap into that local soccer interest.
Austin posted the fourth-highest Nielsen number for the United States’ semi-final game and the fifth-best rating for the Women’s World Cup fifinal. Austin’s 19.1 title-game rating handily beat its 15.3 for the decisive game six of the NBA Finals.
Aztex games aren’t televised, but the first-year USL club ranks 13th in the 24-team league in home attendance, averaging 2,662 fans.
Several Aztex players interviewed Thursday after training at Reeves Athletic Complex called out their own performance while others pointed to marketing and stadium issues the club faces.
“We’ll be at the airport, people see our Aztex gear and ask, ‘What sport do you play?’ “said defender Travis Golden, a Bowie High graduate. “When we tell them we’re Austin’s pro soccer team sometimes they say they didn’t even know Austin had one. People have said, ‘Oh, I’d like to get to a game and check it out. Where do you play?’
“We need to do a better job of getting our name out there.”
Midfielder Brendan King, a Notre Dame alum from Naperville, Ill., offers an outsider’s perspective.
“There’s definitely an awareness issue,” King said. “People here know the U.S. national teams, but we’re still kind of a mystery. Then there’s the stadium situation. We were courting millennials downtown at House Park before the flood. Now we moved up here (to north Austin) looking for families (to become fans).
“I played for the Chicago Fire in MLS, and it helps to have your own soccer-specific facility. The stadium becomes a selling point. Austin needs that.”
The players know results count. The Aztex (5-8-3) have dropped to 10th in the Western Conference while winning just one of their past eight matches.
“Winning is still the best promotion,” forward Bryce Taylor said.
Style matters, too. If there was one thing the Aztex counted on this year, it was scoring. Instead, the team is near the bottom of the league with just 16 goals in 16 games.
“Stronger marketing would help, but it comes back to the product on the field,” forward Drew Yates said.
“... We talk about playing an attractive style, but we’ve scored one goal between the two games at Reeves. That doesn’t cut it. You need to get people into the building and then make them want to come back for more. That’s on us.”
Coach Paul Dalglish, a native of Scotland, said he’d be more alarmed if his team didn’t have the technical ability.
“We’re dominating possession, creating lots of chances, just not finishing. It will come,” he said. “I want to see us win more 50-50 balls and compete without the ball. I want more intensity. We’ll see who has that fire.
“I think Austin likes watching major international events, like the Olympics and world soccer. If Michael Phelps or a UT athlete were swimming and winning gold medals, they’d be all over that. There’s a strong pull to rooting for your country, especially when it’s successful.”
Austin’s Travis Golden (rear) battles an Arizona United player in a match earlier this season.