Though Austin Bold FC saw its first U.S. Open Cup campaign come to an end Tuesday night, the club can take some pride in a second-half performance during which it nearly erased a three-goal deficit to force extra time — and it can take that energy into the second half of its USL Championship season with two new players from FC Dallas.
The club announced Wednesday morning Francis Atuahene and Ema Twumasi, two forwards who progressed from the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana to MLS, have joined the Bold on loan, with Atuahene eligible to be recalled by FC Dallas at any point this season. Atuahene made his debut in FC Dallas’s 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday, scoring just 42 seconds into his sub appearance on his 23rd birthday to nearly set an MLS record for fastest debut goal.
Atuahene and Twumasi, in attendance Tuesday, got to see Jekyll and Hyde halves from both the Bold and the Dynamo. While Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera attributed the change in his club to coming out flat and uninspired after halftime, Bold coach Marcelo Serrano sees the change in the Dynamo resulting from the Bold’s improved tactics in the second half — particularly, a renewed emphasis on pressing that was part of the game plan that had alluded them in the first half.
‘The high press in the first half was not good enough,” Serrano noted. “We had the team go forward, and that created the chances.” The Bold actually ended up outshooting the Dynamo 17-9, leading 6-4 in shots on goal.
“At the start of the match, we didn’t stick to the game plan very well,” said veteran Bold defender Jermaine Taylor, who was a member of Dynamo between 2011 and 2015. “That led us to being down three goals in the first half. Nevertheless, we came into the locker room and fixed that.”
“We didn’t want to allow them to play,” midfielder Promise Isaac added simply about the second-half change, noting that the Bold was able to disrupt the rhythms that the Dynamo were able to set up early in the match.
Taylor, as a MLS veteran, noted key differences between USL Championship play and MLS play that he thinks will serve the team well going forward. He said whereas USL Championship play can allow for teams to be slower and more deliberate, the speed and soccer IQ in MLS is what he described as “very consistent — if you slack off for a moment in a game, you’re screwed.”
Taylor believes the team will shake the loss off, and focus on their next match against the Tacoma Defiance on Saturday, looking to improve from their current position, in 9th of 18 team in the USL Championship’s Western Conference. They can also learn from their trip to BBVA Stadium, and even can be buoyed somewhat by coming back against the defending champs — though they also might think of what could have been if they’d been able to get the equalizer.
The morning after the match, two Bold players were back at their Circuit of the Americas home for soccer, though to spread love of the game rather than prepare for the next match. Midfielder Sonny Guadarrama — who dueled DaMarcus Beasley throughout the match, and getting in position for a late tying goal he couldn’t get on target — founded a non-profit to help children with disabilities learn soccer called Sunshine Soccer. Though he’d had a long night returning back from an MLS stadium to the USL ranks, he wanted to be there for the final day of a soccer camp for the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas. He brought defender Josue Soto with him to celebrate the participating children — some who were learning to play soccer for the first time in their lives.
“It’s what we’d been working for,” Guadarrama said simply of the trip to Houston. “We knew, at some point, that we wanted to play an MLS team. Had a third goal come,” he added, even while knowing the match would have gone into extra time and penalty kicks, “a tie would have been a fair result.”