A sellout crowd of Austin Bold soccer fans, who witnessed the joint home and stadium opener for their United Soccer League Championship (USL) expansion franchise, were rewarded when the Bold defeated rival San Antonio FC (SAFC) 1-0 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in South Austin Saturday night.
A 77th minute goal by Austin’s Brazilian forward Kleber Giacomazzi , nicknamed “Gladiator”, was the difference in a match that reflected the intensity of the emerging I-35 rivalry between the teams from Austin and San Antonio. Kleber, who has scored over 100 goals in his 17-year career, calmly slotted in a ball from inside the penalty area that had been headed down to his feet by defender Sean McFarlane off a corner kick. Prolific scorers have a knack for seemingly showing up in the right spot to score goals and Kleber used his experience to separate himself from the pack going for the ball and found himself alone at the back post for the finish that led the team to its first ever victory.
Austin Bold Head Coach Marcelo Serrano was very pleased with the result and the enthusiastic crowd in attendance. “It was the first time at home; beautiful crowd – I couldn’t ask for more; having kids around and the families and the (Austin) community.”
A cold and blustery night could not restrain the enthusiasm of the standing room only crowd of 5,803, that included a large contingent of traveling San Antonio fans. The new stadium, located on COTA’s grounds next to their Amphitheater and race track, was constructed in five months and takes advantage of the infrastructure and staff already present at the large events venue.
On the USL Championship website, Austin Bold and COTA owner Bobby Epstein discussed how much fun the event atmosphere created for Austin soccer fans experiencing the first pro soccer action since the Austin Aztex folded three years ago. He also talked about the experience and talent Kleber, who has scored the Bold’s only two goals in this young season, brings to the club. “It’s so awesome, he came through for us on the road with the first goal ever for the Bold, and he came through here. We’ve got some good players.
After the game, Serrano commented on the intense and physical nature of the first ever matchup with San Antonio FC. “It’s a derby (rivalry), you can see that they made our victory very hard. They came for a derby game, they didn’t give us any options.” He then attributed much of the physical nature of the match to the elements. “I think it was fair, the problem was the wind.; the wind brought the physicality.”
SAFC will feel unfortunate to not come away with a result. On the night San Antonio controlled 55% of the possession and outshot Austin 15-8. Only one of those shots were on goal, however, and as a result of poor finishing the club remains winless on the season. A blistering shot that skied just over the crossbar from substitute midfielder Walter Restrepo in the final minute of added extra-time put a cap on SAFC’s tough night.
SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell, who fielded a lineup with seven changes from the team that lost in Colorado Springs last week, had a difficult time hiding his frustration after the match. “We worked hard for 90 minutes and came up short at the end of it, “ Powell continued, “We are bitterly disappointed, and we want to make sure we learn and move past it and get ready for our match next Saturday.”
Veteran SAFC midfielder Michael Lahoud, making his first start of the year, also expressed his disappointment over the result. “You get zero points for feeling sorry for yourself. It always hurts to fall short when you put in a good performance,” Lahoud continued, “This is a game of details, and when you play a group of veterans like that it’s always going to be a tight game. We have to learn from it and take our chances and punish teams when we can.”
Austin now takes the early lead in the race for the “Copa Tejas”competition, the Cup that will be awarded to the Texas USL Championship side with the best record intra-state in intrastate matches played among the four teams. After two of the twelve matches to be played, Austin has 3 points, RGV FC and El Paso 1 point apiece and SAFC hasn’t gotten on the board yet.
The Bold (1-1-1, 4 points-12th place in Western Conference) returns to the road for the third time next weekend when they play Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday. SAFC (0-3-1, 1 point-17th place in West) returns home to Toyota Field to play Las Vegas Lights FC, also on Saturday.