Iden­tity is­sues plague Az­tex

Play­ers: Win­ning, mar­ket­ing, sta­dium among top con­cerns.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Kevin Lyt­tle klyt­tle@states­man.com

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.”

CON­TRIB­UTED BY ERICH SCH­LEGEL

Austin’s Travis Golden (rear) bat­tles an Ari­zona United player in a match ear­lier this sea­son.

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