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February 29, 2024

A New Hope: Austin FC’s season opener w/ goalie Brad Stuver and singer Mélat

By: Elizabeth McQueen

Austin FC goalie Brad Stuver talks to hosts Jimmy Maas and Juan Garcia about his pre-game ritual, his favorite date night spot in Austin, and how he makes sure that what happens on the field stays on the field.

Austin musician Mélat explains what it’s like to sing the national anthem at the season kickoff game — she’s done it three times! Plus she explains how she manifested a professional soccer team for our city.

Juan tells you why Austin FC is paying tribute to the Armadillo World Headquarters on their new away jersey.

And Jeremiah Bentley and Landon Cotham from the Moontower Soccer podcast talk about off-season trades and signings.

The full transcript of this episode of ¡Vamos Verde! is available on the KUT & KUTX Studio website. The transcript is also available as subtitles or captions on some podcast apps.

Jimmy Maas Hi, I’m Jimmy Maas.

Juan Garcia And I’m Juan Garcia

Jimmy Maas  and you are listening to Vamos, a podcast about Austin FC and the community that surrounds it.

Juan Garcia And you’re lucky enough to join us during our first episode.

Jimmy Maas And what’s coming up? Well, we have goalkeeper Brad Stover on the show.

Juan Garcia R&B singer Mae Lot, who you may know from being the Austin Music Award winner for best R&B singer of the year.

Jimmy Maas And since we’re new, we checked in with some guys that have been doing this for a while. Landon Cottam and Jeremiah Bentley, who host Moon Tower Soccer, the podcast that’s been covering Austin FC for the last three seasons.

Juan Garcia And we’ll also be heading home with the armadillo.

Jimmy Maas Wow, that’s a lot.

Juan Garcia A lot to cover.

Jimmy Maas That’s a one and one episode I feel I I’m excited. All right, let’s address the armadillo in the room. Not the one in the stadium, but there.

Juan Garcia Was one in the stadium. Yeah, but that’s not the armadillo we’re talking.

Jimmy Maas That’s the armadillo that I’m referring to. Is the performance in the first half by Austin FC of their home opener.

Juan Garcia It was not what you were hoping for after a long offseason of hope and dreams.

Jimmy Maas Yeah, and I will say the team that showed up in the second half a little bit different, a lot more on the ball, literally, and just looked better and maybe portend something more positive going forward.

Juan Garcia And in the end they lost two to one, not a huge goal differential. When you look at it from the perspective of a full Major League Soccer season, it’s probably not going to impact things too much one way or another.

Jimmy Maas There were two things, though, that took place the last three seasons at Q2 Stadium and also happened on Saturday night. First, fan energy was crazy. It’s the atmosphere. If you’ve not experienced it, it is. Well, it’s it’s kind of overwhelming at first. Probably.

Juan Garcia I like missed it. I walked into the stadium. I stood next to the south end. I heard La Murga get going. And they did not stop the entire match, despite what the scoreline looked like, they were still bringing it. Yeah.

Jimmy Maas And there is that that pulse that comes from the, the drum that just or drums that just kind of keeps it going the entire time. And you kind of almost walk away. Kind of like when you get off train, you sort of still feel like you’re moving. Yeah. When you’re walking out of the stadium, you’re still feeling that kind of like that beat.

Juan Garcia Da da da da da da da da da da.

Jimmy Maas So the second good thing that remained constant from the prior three seasons and Saturday night into Saturday night, Brad Stuver.

Juan Garcia I mean, the guy had eight saves and gave people plenty of reason to be shouting his name at the stadium, even with the, the the two goals that ended up going in.

Jimmy Maas You can’t be everywhere all the time, even though it seems like sometimes he is. Yeah. Good goalkeeper fan favorite. They call him by just one name.

Juan Garcia You only need one syllable to know who you’re talking about.

Jimmy Maas And, he’s been nominated for two ESPYs, both for humanitarian of the year. That’s that’s big. His laundry project has helped hundreds of people get access to clean clothes. He is number one in your program.

Juan Garcia And number one in all our hearts.

Announcer Brad Stuver

Jimmy Maas First question out of the box. Who do you hate most on the team?

Brad Stuver That’s a very wild way to start this episode. I want to say Danny P.

Juan Garcia But that you’re referring to Dani Pereira.

Brad Stuver I hate that I love him so much. He is such a character. He’s like, he’s always on. He’s got so much energy, and I think I just hate that about him because I can’t keep up with his his wild antics and the energy that he brings every day.

Jimmy Maas This is, year number four for you here in Austin. Is this feel like home now? Is this what you’re looking forward to returning to? You know, when you think about when you’re traveling and whatnot.

Brad Stuver Yeah. We’ve found a home in Austin. We love the city. We love the culture of the city. We love the people that we surrounded ourselves with and fallen in love with the club and kind of the direction that it’s heading. And I love being part of something that is, continuing to grow, continuing to be even more a part of the Austin community. And I would say it’s probably the first time that we feel settled and we feel at home. And, it’s a good feeling for sure.

Jimmy Maas When you go back to, do you go back to Cleveland? I guess is an important question to ask before my next question.

Brad Stuver We didn’t make it back this year, but, after the 2022 season, we made it back for about a week and a half just to visit family.

Jimmy Maas When you go back to Cleveland, do you ever, like, I don’t know, sit down at an Applebee’s or the restaurant of your choice and have other people yell your name?

Brad Stuver No. Never happens there.

Jimmy Maas Is it hard to explain to your friends what the reception for you is like here in Austin?

Brad Stuver I’ve had a couple that have come down to visit, and they’ve gone to games and they’ve like seen the in stadium antics and they’ve seen kind of the energy in the stadium. But I think the biggest shock for them is just kind of walking around Austin, going to going shopping, going to dinner, going to coffee shops and just seeing all like the local businesses with Austin FC flags. You have, people walking around with the jerseys and then like every now and then you have someone on the street just start yelling, Stu, when they see me walking. And, it happened one time and my friend just kind of, like, stared at me and I was like, yeah, it happens sometimes. And they just they didn’t quite understand it.

Jimmy Maas There’s a, I don’t know, an ever shrinking group of guys that were there from day one. Do you guys, talk about that, or do you just hold some sort of extra sway in the locker room? Does anyone care that you know that you guys are like OG Austin FC?

Brad Stuver Nah, really doesn’t come up very much. Those are things that you’ll look back on in five, ten years, and you’ll say that you were part of something special from the start. But, I think everybody right now is just so focused on what’s ahead of us that, we don’t want to look back, we don’t want to look behind us. And it is crazy to think that, the group of guys that we had three years ago, has dwindled so much. But, that’s kind of just the nature of the business. And those of us that have been here, really have an identity with this club and maybe have a little bit more, emotional roots in what we’re trying to build here. And, we’re just excited to go out and compete again for the city of Austin.

Jimmy Maas I guess being around so long, you’re now among certainly you have some leadership just by age over some other guys in the locker room, and maybe you.

Brad Stuver And calling me old.

Jimmy Maas Like actor or just these artists or these guys that are just, you know, you guys have been around the block. You’ve seen a lot of different things in different forms. Can you just talk about how like that, how much that goes over in a locker room?

Brad Stuver Yeah. Experience definitely plays a huge role in, people’s perspectives of you obviously being in this is my 12th year in MLS, it gives a lot of guys in the locker room a little bit more trust in me, because they can look at me and they can kind of see where my head’s at. My emotional level is when I’m angry, they know that something is truly wrong. I don’t get angry very often because I know that there are things that will happen throughout the season where we need to correct, but we also don’t need to overreact to certain things. So, just being on the older side of the locker room and having the guys kind of look to you to, on the to see if you’ve been through that situation before.

Juan Garcia And what’s angry Brad Stuber like? Like what defines angry Brad Stuber?

Brad Stuver Yeah, I don’t know. I cuss a lot. So I’ve, I’ve kicked some stuff. Yeah. Like I said, it doesn’t happen very often, but, when it does, guys know that, it’s not a good day, that’s for sure.

Jimmy Maas How do you compartmentalize that and not try to, you know, take it home or or take it with you into the next practice or take it with you, you know, into the rest of your life?

Brad Stuver Yeah. It’s it’s a skill that’s not always acquired by everybody. Being able to kind of live in the moment and then kind of let that moment go, whether it’s, a really good win over rival, whether it’s a really bad loss, away from home. Kind of like what I alluded to earlier. The biggest thing about our sport is how do you react from those moments and how do you continue moving forward to achieve your goals? For me, it’s taken a lot, a lot of years for me to get to this point where I’ve tried to stay as even keeled as possible, even in games, just when things are going our way. I want to be even keeled. When things aren’t going our way. I want to show that consistent emotion throughout the match to give my teammates a little bit more encouragement. I want to do that throughout a season because there are going to be ups and downs and, reaction is everything in this business and if you have a bad reaction, you’re going to go down a slump. If you overhype your, your highs, you’re going to get lost and you’ll soon, like, end up in a slump. So for me, just, trying to stay as even keeled as possible, enjoying the moments when they happen. I think, Ashley, I’ll tell you that I’m not great at celebrating when things are going good. She thinks that I just kind of glaze over them and look to the next thing, so, it can be a good and a bad thing. But, like I said, in this business, it’s all about what’s what’s next and what can we do to be better?

Jimmy Maas Ashley. Being your partner in life?

Brad Stuver Yes. My wife. Yep.

Jimmy Maas Was there a lesson learned at some point where you’re like, no, this is too far. I know this means a lot to me, but it doesn’t mean everything to me.

Brad Stuver Yeah. It’s tough because soccer is such a big part of my life. It’s not just a job. It’s something that I’ve been doing since I was four years old. It is something that I love with every fiber of my being. And, when you lose a game and it starts affecting you mentally, and then you go home and you can’t enjoy the life that you’ve built with your family, that you, the city that you live in and all these different things. It kind of catches up to you. So, a lot of the guys do their best to make sure that what happens on the field stays on the field. And then when they go home with their families, they realize that, the most important thing in life is your family are the friends that you choose, the, the things that you want to do. And at the end of the day, soccer is a job, but it is a very big privilege for us to do what we do. And it’s something that we love. But we do, we do need to make sure that we can compartmentalize that what happens on the field shouldn’t ruin our day, even though it does that a lot.

Jimmy Maas So you talk about the friends that you you know, the life that you built here. You guys are professional soccer players. You’re building relationships all the time with your teammates. And then at some point, some of those teammates move on and they go, you know, they’re traded. Or it’s you know, maybe in some cases they just go to a different country. You know, is there maintenance of those relationships, you know, during the off season or you know, how how are these things, you know, nurtured as you guys go in different directions professionally?

Brad Stuver Yeah, we talk about, different locker rooms mean different things, to different guys. We always say you get one locker room where you make kind of, like, lifelong friends. And it ends up being a locker room where you’re with a bunch of other guys that are in the same kind of area of life as you. They have the same, like closer to the same age. They’re doing the things that you do. We always say that you kind of gain like lifelong friends. It’s not as common as people might think, but, inside each locker room, you you instantly have 25, 26 other guys in the locker room that become your friends. And it’s up to, it’s up to us to find out whether those are going to be lifelong relationships or they’re just going to be friendships that, you just keep in touch and check in on one another every now and then or if they’re going. To turn into, like, more serious, like long term friendships. I would say I’ve had, a mixture of both. There’s, some players that, I keep an eye on but don’t really speak to. There’s players that I check in on every now and then, or if I see they did something amazing with their new club, I’ll send them a message. And then there’s others that I talk to almost every day. So it’s varying between different guys in different locker rooms, but, it’s always cool getting to know different players from kind of all over the world.

Juan Garcia What’s a feeling like going up against one of those friends, like when they walk into Q2 and all of a sudden you’re like, mean mugging them because now you’re rivals?

Brad Stuver Yeah, I was going to say it actually happens to me because one of, one of my closer friends is actually the center back for FC Dallas, and, we play each other a lot. And, it’s just one of those things where on the field, you don’t really think too much about your friendship. You might have a little bit more banter with them. I always joke before games that he’s never allowed to score on me because I’ll never hear the end of it. But in between the lines, like those friendships, they kind of, like, take on a different personality. Your your competitor. All of us want to compete. We want to win. And, it doesn’t really matter if you’re going up against someone you hate or someone that you’re best friends with. At the end of the day, all you care about is winning with your teammates.

Jimmy Maas You just brought up something. Can you explain the relationship between the goalie and the center back? And it just the on the field, off the field, all of it, you know?

Brad Stuver Yeah, I would kind of, I would compare it to kind of the quarterback and the offensive line a little bit. I would say that the center backs and the goalkeeper have a lot of responsibility on them. They’re kind of the last line of defense, and, they’re the ones that are kind of the first line of offense. And, we spend a lot of time together. We, train in a lot of drills together. We kind of have to know each other’s nuances, and the chemistry has to be right. So, I have a lot of respect for my center backs. Always try and take care of them as best as I can, because I. I hope that they can take care of me and help me in the games. So, but yeah, I think it’s just one of those relationships that’s a little bit more solid than, my relationships, like farther up the field.

Jimmy Maas Q2. Can you just describe what kind of work environment that is for you?

Brad Stuver It’s amazing. I’ll say that. I still haven’t quite gotten used to it. This will be the fourth season playing in front of this, raucous crowd. And, I’m constantly amazed at the amount of dedication that they have, at, the spectacle that they make on game day and, they just show so much passion and, so much love for this squad. And, I know that every guy that comes here and they sign with the team, they’re like, man, I’ve been on the other side of this. I’m so glad that I’m on your side now. I was like, yeah, it’s gonna it’s gonna feel different. It’s gonna feel a lot better when it’s there at your back and not staring you in the face.

Juan Garcia Do you prefer or do you find it easier to stay focused when you’re across the pitch from them and you can see all the flags, or when they’re right behind you, you know, yelling your face off.

Brad Stuver So personally, I like being on the North end just because I love watching goal celebrations on the South end. So I think one of the one of the really cool things is like watching, watching Jose, watching ring, watching me, like watching all these guys score a goal and then get to go celebrate in front of that section. It’s probably one of my favorite things about the entire experience.

Jimmy Maas We’ve been doing this thing. These are questions from my kids soccer team. So I have two kids. They’re on three teams. I’m going to play one who I know is a goal keeper.

Jupiter Hey, my name is Jupiter and I play for Capital City and lost to soccer. And my question is, what is your pre-game superstitions or ritual?

Brad Stuver Biggest rituals I have are when I get to the stadium, I go out and I walk the field. I go look at the goal. I look at the six yard box, then I go do it on the other end. When I go into the locker room, I get dressed. The Sox have, like, L and R on them to let you know what foot they need to go on, just in case you didn’t know, I have to flip them. I wear the R on my left, and I wear the l, am I right? Don’t know when it started. Don’t know why. It’s just something that needs to be done. And then before each half, touches each post and the crossbar, and then I center myself in the middle of the goal with my back to the field, and I just kind of talk to myself. I have a kind of like, a mantra that I like to tell myself. And, it’s kind of like a personal moment for me right before the kickoff where, I just use it to kind of, like, center myself and make sure that I’m ready for the next 90 minutes.

Juan Garcia Are you aware that people are tracking your pre-game routines? No. So I actually noticed last year, a post on social media, someone that regularly goes toss in AFC games was noticing how you touch the posts and the crossbar, then center yourself. And, you know, they went pretty deep in it. Is this, I guess it’s interesting to see that it’s, it’s news to you that, you didn’t know people caught onto that. But I do know about the inside scoop of the, the Sox.

Brad Stuver Yeah, there’s a group of people in the North End that when I center myself in, the goal, they kind of, like, put their hands out and they start moving. And then, like, I always clap three times at the very end of my thing. And they like, they time it up and they collaborate with me. So I’ve noticed that. But I didn’t know that people actually, like, knew what I was doing. That was like a pre-game. So that’s pretty cool.

Juan Garcia I have one question that just as the last thing, what is your favorite date spot in Austin to take your wife?

Brad Stuver So it’s changed throughout the years that we’ve, been here. We kind of latch on to places and go a lot, and then we kind of move to a new one. Right now it’s, the Peacock, the Mediterranean Grill, on second Street downtown. That’s kind of like our our go to date night.

Jimmy Maas I was kind of hoping for the Applebee’s in Cleveland, but that’s fine.

Brad Stuver It’s been a while since 45 Applebee’s. But there are two for 20. Was was the perfect date night at high school. The two for 20 was the legendary.

Jimmy Maas Brad Stuber, goalkeeper for Austin FC.

Juan Garcia Always nice to have a nice, healthy portion of stew.

Jimmy Maas You know what stew is? It’s an appetizer. It’s an appetizer for the main course because coming up, we have. Austin, R&B singer extraordinaire. After the break.

Juan Garcia You’re listening to the Vamos a podcast. I’m Juan Garcia.

Jimmy Maas And I’m Jimmy Moss.

Unidentified One. My. Let go of the. Every.

Juan Garcia Our next guest has become a staple of opening night at U2 Stadium. She just sang the national anthem for the third year in a row at the home opener, and she’s fresh off winning the Austin Music Award for best R&B singer of the year. Of course, I’m talking about the one and only Mahlon Man.

Jimmy Maas Your rendition of the anthem on Saturday was beautiful.

Juan Garcia Fantastic.

Jimmy Maas It was.

Melat Thank you so.

Jimmy Maas Much. Memorable. I’ll be thinking about that for weeks.

Melat Till next time. No, till next year. The next year when I’m singing it again.

Jimmy Maas Game one for 20, 25, 31.

Melat They do their thing though for.

Juan Garcia How does that feel? Getting invited over and over and over again to do the thing?

Melat That was the right amount of overs two. But, it’s honestly, it’s such an honor. Such an honor. I mean, it’s no, it’s no secret that I absolutely love the Austin FC, I love soccer. I love my hometown. And to be able to use my skill set in a place where I really don’t have a skill set, just the strong love for it just means the whole world to be able to marry all of that. And yeah, super honored. Super honored.

Jimmy Maas When when the team approached you the first time. Do you remember your response to that call or did that text? I don’t know, that would come over to this in the fax. I don’t know what they’re.

Melat Yeah, they definitely faxed it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I cried I won’t lie, I shed tears because it it literally was something that I never in my it was a childhood dream that I in my wildest dreams, I never actually thought it could happen. Because, you know, I’ve always loved it. And that as a kid, I was like, okay, one day there’s going to be like a professional team in Austin, and I’d be able to sing the national anthem. And then, you know, the fact that we get this incredible soccer team and then I get to sing the home opener just was it was it was unimaginable for me. But then it happened. And so, yeah, dreams really can come true. I get of them say.

Juan Garcia It’s almost like you saw into the future because this would have been before. Even the plans for Austin FC to come to Austin would have happened.

Melat Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah. I mean, I was real little I mean, I was a little kid in elementary school somewhere thinking, you know, this would be cool if it happened in my hometown, but one day.

Juan Garcia Maybe one day came and.

Melat One day actually came, and then then again the next year and then the next year. So I’m really honored to to, you know, play even the tiniest role.

Jimmy Maas Are you going to be upset next year if they ask somebody else? Is there pressure now?

Melat I mean, look.

Juan Garcia Maybe.

Melat I’ll be upset. I’ll understand. But, you know, I just.

Jimmy Maas Maybe they didn’t like me this time.

Melat Just, you know, I’m. I’m thankful for every opportunity that I get with these guys. So, you know, the next time another opportunity comes up, I’m just always excited. So I’m just here for right now.

Juan Garcia I guess I was doing a little bit of research into you, and I noticed the thread of Greek mythology inspiration. I want to know the origin of that. Like what triggered your brain to be like, I need to know more about that. And how did that kind of eventually find its way into your music?

Melat Yeah. You know, the funny thing is, I had to ask myself that question. At a certain point, I was like, wait, why am I gravitating so hard to this Greek mythology? And. Honestly. So a little bit about my family. It’s a little crazy. You know, my grandparents day and age was a different time. But one of my uncles is part Greek. And so there was a heavy like I always knew it, so and he spoke the language and, you know, he would go there and I got I remember having this shirt when I was a little kid, and I was just obsessed with it. It was just this beautiful Greek shirt. And so, you know, and then now as we’ve gotten older, like, you know, there’s more I have, like, cousins and stuff. They’re kind of, I don’t know, it’s like a I’m not going to explain my entire family tree, but I have cousins who are Greek. And so the Greek presence in my life has always been very strong. And then I grew up in a Greek Orthodox church. And so that has always been there. But I think as far as, like the mythology of it, I think there’s just something there’s always like a story attached to every single person. And, and reading those stories, you can find some sort of inspiration or some sort of relatability. And, I’ve found that a lot when I started kind of like trying to research, like, you know, names for albums and things, and, it always seemed to somehow directly line up with what I was thinking and what I was feeling. And so, it just, I don’t know, I’ve, I’ve kind of just rolled with it because it just, it feels right. And that’s kind of how I roll and like, if it feels right, if it feels good, if it doesn’t feel, you know, like if it questionable, and it feels genuine and authentic to who I am, then I’m going to roll with it and it just keeps popping up.

Juan Garcia Do you have a favorite story from the, the Greek canon?

Melat Well, I mean, as of right now, considering I put out an album called Canon Metis. Metis is really my, like, favorite right now. And she was like the goddess of, like, wisdom. And so, she actually was the one, actually, I say that, like, it actually happened, but it might happen. I don’t know who knows. But she was the one who gave Zeus the idea of how to free his siblings from the belly of their father, who had eaten them and all that stuff. And she was also Zeus’s first wife. But to me, she just represents this undying love, because she also was the mother of Athena. So they say, and, but also having this wisdom that was also unending. And to me, for this album, it felt like I had, you know, I’d gone through many iterations of who I am and what I’m doing and why I’m doing it and all these different things, and I felt like I had gained a certain level of wisdom and understanding of who I am and what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. And so, to me, it’s kind of like the, the, the most important one right now because, yeah, I think we all should take that time to know ourselves and understand ourselves and as we evolve, because it changes constantly.

Juan Garcia And you mentioned love. And that is like if there is one word that I would probably ascribe to a lot of the themes of your music, it’s love. Oh, yeah. But I’m curious to know from you like what song that you’ve written, do you feel captures the feeling of being in love the best?

Melat Whoo! Okay. All right, there’s a couple that I can think of. I can’t, I can’t. They’re down to one. There’s I think I just get I got too many little song babies. I can’t. I like picking.

Juan Garcia Your favorite child. This is.

Melat Impossible. Considering they’re, like, 98% love songs. I would have to say. I feel like there’s a song called week that I have that I feel like when I wrote it, I was thinking of like they had all these videos of, like the husband at the altar and then like the wife, like coming down and he’s like, bursting into tears as soon as she. But like, there was just a million of them at that time.

Juan Garcia Those do it for me, too.

Melat I know, like, oh my God, that’s so sweet. He loves her so much. But I was seeing a bunch of those, and so that song to me is like, what happens in that? Like one minute 30s 45 seconds of time? And it’s just that, that type of feeling able to. Please forgive me. You’ll.

Juan Garcia Makes me wish.

Unidentified I could go. Dongles are my boots.

Melat And so I’ve. I’ve love that song. But then. The other one is the now, which I have sung like every performance I’ve ever done. And I do a speech before it every single time. Because that song, literally to me is about being in the in the moment, being present, and not taking that moment for granted with whoever you’re with, because those are the people and the moments that matter. And it’s those memories that last, like whatever may transpire, you know, you may lose the person. You know, you may, things may change, but. If we can remain present in the moment. I feel like that’s like the highest form of, like expressing your love, just being present, being there.

Unidentified Now, I know I’d be like hell on if I gonna. Are you over? Before this crowd. So nothing.

Melat So to me the now is really it. And that’s how I feel about feeling like you had asked me earlier, I am present, I am there in the now. I love it so much. So yeah.

Juan Garcia And is that you’re like Desert Island song. Like, if you could take one song that you’ve written into eternity, it’s that one. No, because I.

Jimmy Maas You can’t take it anymore that it’s about the now. Like you can’t go into the eternity right now.

Juan Garcia I don’t know what I’m talking about, Jimmy. You’re right.

Jimmy Maas Yeah. That just make any sense? Come on, come on.

Juan Garcia You’re right, you’re right. We’re here for this is. This is why I need him. Yes.

Jimmy Maas Let’s get back to the now.

Juan Garcia Right. Which I present in the.

Jimmy Maas Yeah. To. Now we’re playing with time here. Oh, yeah. Okay. The 90s that you’re singing the national anthem. And you’re trying to soak it all in.

Juan Garcia What’s a big misconception about that experience? Like what do people get wrong?

Melat I will tell you, it’s not even about getting it wrong. It’s just the fact that there’s like a slap back to it. So like as I’m singing, the sound is also coming back at me and I’m not wearing. You don’t have years. There’s no in-ears. Yeah, there’s nothing like where I can only hear myself in my ears. Which is what in-ears are some people don’t know. And that’s okay. That’s okay. But that is probably the most difficult part to get over. Like, I literally have to ignore everything I hear and just kind of trust what I know how to do. Lots of self-trust going on here, clearly. But, yeah, I think people don’t realize that you’re not just dealing with your own voice coming out, but you’re hearing it come back delayed. And so you’re kind of like in this weird, like.

Jimmy Maas Like you’re singing with yourself in around.

Melat Yeah, yeah. But like, it’s, like on a.

Juan Garcia Weird ride in a.

Melat Very in a run. That doesn’t make sense at all.

Jimmy Maas Last question. Well, at least for me. One’s got 16. See the list. Got it. You have you’ve been involved with Austin FC a fair amount since it’s, you know, since they opened the doors here, three years ago. Three seasons ago. Probably a little bit longer, but, what is it about the team? And it’s, how would you characterize its interaction with the artist community? And, you know, how would you characterize that interaction and going forward? What do you see as, a way that, artists sport soccer? Austin, how do these all sort of interplay at the at the stadium?

Melat Man. I mean, first off, I just think they’ve done such an incredible job of incorporating local music, in a way that, honestly, I would have never imagined, soccer team would, from, you know, just like kit launches and, like, you know, they just did the big show at, ACL live, for this kit launch, and just I feel like. And they bring in so many different genres of, of music that. I don’t know. I feel like they’ve just done such an exceptional job and maybe I just, I don’t know, but I think they’ve done an incredible job of really incorporating the community. I don’t feel like, you know, just like this big MLS team came in and was like, we’re MLS, we’re doing the thing and we’re doing our thing and whatever can be with us or don’t whatever. But like, they really seem to like. Reach in and and find some incredible people to be a part of what they’re doing. And like I said at the beginning of this that I’m super honored to be a part of it. And I genuinely enjoy it. Everybody. So incredible. I haven’t met a person I could say anything negative about this whole time. Which is incredible, knock on wood. But, yeah, I know everyone’s wonderful. I mean, the team is wonderful. They seem to have a love for Austin as well. I mean, like, stover’s on. I mean, you can’t you can’t knock how much he, like, loves the community and, like, does so many things. But it’s just, I mean, I don’t know, I feel like the possibilities with them incorporating with the community and incorporating with artists is endless, because they’ve just shown that they continually come up with really cool ideas. Incorporate the music because Austin is the live music capital of the world. If you didn’t have local music, music and musicians and all that stuff. I mean, would you even be doing it right? Like they they wouldn’t be doing it right? It wouldn’t it wouldn’t make any sense. So, yeah, I and it’s not just musicians, like, they have all different types of artists and creators and things like that. So, yeah, I, I just think they’re doing a phenomenal job.

Jimmy Maas Thank you for this amazingly articulate response to the nonsense question that I asked you.

Melat Guys.

Jimmy Maas Like, oh, can I have? Well, it was it was a series of words that sort of articulated an idea, but there really wasn’t that. I don’t think it was. If he wrote this out, it was not a good question. You could not diagram that sentence.

Melat Somehow I made sense.

Jimmy Maas Yes you did. You did great. Well, that was fun. Also, great rendition of the national anthem the other night.

Juan Garcia I do love hearing me sing. It could be a phone book, and I would listen to her saying, what if.

Jimmy Maas She did that? Like recorded the whole thing, like starting like a she found a phone book somewhere because she’s, she’s younger and may not even be familiar. So she has to familiarize yourself with, like, what a phone book is.

Juan Garcia But the idea of the concept.

Jimmy Maas And the function of all the addresses. But anyway, so Austin FC is showing literally showing on their sleeve that they are integrating themselves with the Austin music scene more than ever, or at least trying to more than ever this season.

Juan Garcia When the In Black take the pitch in Seattle this weekend, the club will be rocking some new digs on the back of their new veteran cream kit is an address. Five 25.5 Barton Springs Road. If you look it up on Google Street View, you’ll see an unassuming office building. But back in the 1970s, when Austin felt more like a small town than a city, the address was that of the Armadillo World headquarters. If you don’t know what that is, here’s how cute art LaVey described it in a documentary produced in 2020.

Art Levy The building was a derelict National Guard armory. No air conditioning, no seating, just a giant, cavernous space that, frankly, was not well suited for music. Yet this local eyesore would go on to change the identity of Austin culturally, politically, artistically, and its reverberations would be felt far and wide.

Juan Garcia The deal was all about peace, love and creative collaboration. But since it closed, Austin has changed a lot. It grew like crazy, and the tech industry flooded the city with money and people. But despite the changes, the city still has live music as a big part of its identity. The Armadillo World headquarters has become a symbol of what Austin used to be a place where no matter where you went, you could still see the UT tower in the Capitol, a place where you didn’t take yourself too seriously, and where hippies and cowboys could share a beer and play music together. Or, as Ray Benson puts it.

Art Levy The whole idea was this cross-cultural thing of rock and roll and country music and then existing at the same place without people killing each other.

Juan Garcia Benson and his band, asleep at the wheel, played the last concert at the villa when it closed back in 1980, more than 40 years after it closed. Austin FC is hoping some of that energy from one of the coolest spots in Austin’s history helps Q2 Stadium maintain its place as one of the cooler places in Austin’s present. They even brought Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel Inn for the jersey release show. Now, no one is saying the Q2 Stadium is the new Armadillo World headquarters, but Austin FC is making sure music is a vital part of the experience there because through much of their short existence in Major League Soccer, Austin FC has been identified by their music. Much like the city they call home.

Jimmy Maas Up next, Jeremie Bentley and Landon Cottam from Moon Tower Soccer Podcast.

Juan Garcia All coming after the break.

Jimmy Maas I am Jimmy Moss.

Juan Garcia And I’m Juan.

Jimmy Maas Garcia, and you’re listening to Vamos Verde.

Juan Garcia Podcast about Austin FC. The folks around it, the community that grew from it.

Jimmy Maas And here are two guys that did grow from that community. Moon Tower Soccer Podcast co-hosts Jeremiah Bentley and Landon Cotham.

Juan Garcia They’ve been doing what me and Jimmy are trying to do, but they’ve been doing it for years now.

Jimmy Maas Yeah. And, they’ll judge us to see if we’re any good at it. So first off, your thoughts. It’s been four months since the end of a disappointing year. Did you guys see any changes over the winter that might give fans of Austin FC a modicum of hope for a different outcome this year?

Jeremiah Bentley I think the one thing that we definitely heard at the end of the year, Rodolfo Borrell, new sporting director, came in and held this press conference and really talked about how the club had overachieved in 2022 and maybe Underachieve in 2023, and they were going to have to be a lot of changes made. And so we saw that early in the offseason. We saw a bunch of players going out, and I think we probably both agree that everybody that went out deserved to go out, and there was nobody that they were sad to lose. And now Austin is just in a rebuilding process. But there have been several acquisitions over the course of the offseason. I think Landon, you’ve described it best is like, these guys are all better than the guys that were there before, but not the talent that Austin will eventually need to to be at the top of the the table in the Western Conference.

Landon Cotham Yeah, absolutely. And another thing that Burrell said in that press conference you mentioned is that he’s going to be patient. And so while we have seen some incoming players, some what I would call upgrades over, over the folks who left, it’s probably still not quite to the level that Austin needs to be a major contender this year. But they are steps in the right direction. And, I think for, for the long term, this this has been a good offseason for 2024. Maybe not so much. Probably going to have to keep being patient.

Jimmy Maas You guys have followed the team from the jump. I remember at least Landon was standing with a drum at, at least one club announcement, if not more. Is it weird to I mean, I mean, it’s part of the process, but like, is there a part of you that’s like, you know, when Nick Lima walks out the door or somebody like that? Or are you is there’s some sentimentality that, or some sentimiento that, takes over?

Jeremiah Bentley Oh, I think absolutely. And, definitely just among the general fan base. This is the first time we’ve had a professional team in town. I think we all got very, very attached to the first roster and the first players. And Ronnie read us. I think him being the first signing was a lot of the reasons why people were excited about him. So it has been weird to see this amount of turnover. I think Austin’s down to what, 6 or 7 players off the original roster?

Landon Cotham I think it’s a six.

Jeremiah Bentley Yeah, just their fourth season. But there’s a lot of there’s a lot of hope that a lot of the guys that were going out or people that did weren’t performing. And so there’s some hope for the future that the people who we brought in now and the people come in in the summer and in further windows will will lead to greater performance on the field.

Jimmy Maas All right. Who are some of the new folks that we should be paying attention to that might make an impact early in the year?

Landon Cotham I think the main guys that came in, and really there’s only a handful that have come in so far. But the big names being me, beta was a Brazilian fullback coming into. He’ll likely play on the left side, but kind of filling that. The hole that Nick Lima left behind will likely compete for a starting spot at left back. Hot Air. O’Brien, who was playing for Dallas last year, I think he had 11 goal contributions last year and he’ll be probably starting quite a few games, on the wing for Austin. And I think the biggest one who just came in last week or a few weeks or before the season started is Diego Rubio, striker most recently played for the Colorado Rapids, had quite a few injuries in 2023 and so wasn’t super productive then. But in 2022 scored 16 goals and seven assists or something like that. And so he’s now in his I think he’s like 31, something like that. But if he can come back fully healthy. I think he has a chance to be the biggest contributor out of the the folks we’ve added this off season.

Jimmy Maas So. 2023. Terrible start to the year with a bad game. 2022. Excellent start to the year with a great game. Kind of an inverse of each other as far as like performance and the results for the year. Can we can we read too much into the first game sometimes, or is it with this team? Maybe it’s maybe it’s what the cards read.

Landon Cotham I think there is something to be said for setting a tone, gaining some momentum. That’s all real. Those are things that do play into professional sports. But in a league like MLS, frankly, the only thing that matters is how good you are in the last like third of the season because it’s so tight, the margins are so small that anybody is still in it. Like up until that last little stretch. And so it would be great if we could start off really strong. But if this group can hold together until the summer, when Burrell can work a little more of his magic and maybe bring in 1 or 2 more real difference makers, that’s all that’s really going to matter for this team in 2024.

Juan Garcia And where would those difference makers go based on the current makeup of the roster before the season, in your opinion?

Landon Cotham They still need to be in the attack, right? Like, I, I think there’s a chance for some of these guys to prove themselves and say, you don’t need someone at my position, get them somewhere else. But I think, another striker or, a goal dangerous or playmaking winger would be my, my main two targets.

Juan Garcia And who do you think might make that step and tell the team, hey, you don’t need to upgrade on me, so stop looking.

Landon Cotham Emiliano Rigoni’s a Designated player. You’ve noticed we’ve not mentioned his name once today, and that’s about what his performance over the last year and a half his has merited is just he’s not he’s not that bad, but he’s just never that good. And so if he can reach the the amount of contribution that you want from your designated players, I think that could be a reason to not assign someone at that position.

Jimmy Maas Help us through this. Pretend we don’t know anything. What is a designated player and why does their relative performance matter than, say, another player?

Jeremiah Bentley I’ll. I’ll start this. So Major League Soccer it’s a salary cap league. So there’s really as opposed to to Europe where you can just go spend whatever. There’s a really thin sort of band of how much you’re you’re allowed to pay players. And every team has the potential to have three designated players, which are basically all the rules are off. You can pay them whatever and transfers fees. You pay them whatever in salary, but they only count a certain amount against the salary cap. And so what it becomes in this league is really, really important to hit on your designated players, because that’s where you have flexibility, that’s where you’re going to have your most talented players, and you see the teams that year after year that are successful, the ones that are able to do that. And that’s something that Austin’s been terrible at so far. So out of what six designated players in club history? I think that’s right. Like Sebastian Djerassi is the one that’s performed up to expectations and all the other ones have not, which has been part of of Austin having to not great years out of three.

Jimmy Maas That fair?

Landon Cotham Yeah. No, he nailed it.

Jimmy Maas Yeah. All right, so to further this example, Lionel Messi is a DP, a designated player for Miami. They’re not paying him league minimum, although he could afford it.

Jeremiah Bentley Right, right.

Landon Cotham He counts. He counts towards the roster exactly the same towards the salary budget. Exactly the same as a millionaire. And he does.

Jimmy Maas Which is, wild comparison when you consider it. Hey! Go, Argentina!

Landon Cotham So I’m curious, you know, Borrell were in his first press conference. Stressed patience, right. He needs to build up the scouting team. He needs to, like, really take time to put his imprint on the team. And it’s not going to happen overnight. How soon can we expect it? If we were to be impatient, how soon could we expect the real turnaround from Burrell’s presence at the team next winter is going to be a big turning point. There’s a lot of big salaries that will be either the end of their guaranteed contracts, and we’ll have option years that could be picked up, but if they want it, there’s a lot of money coming off the books in December. I think that is going to be the first window, like next winter’s window. That’s going to be the first one where Burrell can really start to make big moves and really get his fingerprints on this roster build.

Jimmy Maas You guys, this is your fifth year hosting this podcast. You did the build up here, correct?

Landon Cotham Yeah. I mean, we started close to two years before the first season, I think.

Jimmy Maas And in the meantime, you guys also have like regular job. So like just what made you want to start it.

Landon Cotham Attention.

Jeremiah Bentley Well, we just talked about that, like, until it gives us, like. Oh, yeah, we like, we like going to hop squad. Took my dad to a game, and somebody’s like, are you the guy from the podcast? Like, my dad came home to tell my mom, it’s like Jeremiah’s famous, right? So there’s dad, there’s that. But I, you know, I think for both of us, just like a love of this team and this game and in some way, it’s a lot of time. But most of the time we spend on this outside of the sort of writing the script and recording and then land it, editing was time I was gonna spend. Anyhow. I was going to read every article about Austin FC, you know, I was gonna follow every Twitter page or Instagram or whatever about it. So it became like this ability to to share this passion and maybe have a little bit of a voice. We both came to this sport as adults. Both grew up in small towns in Texas where we didn’t have soccer teams and feel like we’re in a spot to sort of know the details and the tactics, but also be able to, like, share it. In a way, it’s related to the people who are coming to the game to we want to be open and inviting and not like clubby and clicky and stuff about what we do. So hopefully that comes through.

Jimmy Maas And, you have kids. You don’t. Right? You know, right in. How is that? Have you seen the next generation come into that? You know, as Austin’s grown, where where does have you have you seen that? And then make an impression on your children?

Jeremiah Bentley Absolutely. My 14 year old, he comes to every game with me, goes to all these random club events that we go to and things like that. And he and his friends are into this sport and he’s he can name me like six Saudi Arabian teams. I mean, he’s like into this game and his peers and it’s game in a way that we were not at all. So it’s been I think Austin FC sort of been that connecting point for a lot of a lot of them to come together and share and have this common experience. So this is going to be our thing. Just like I grew up outside of Dallas Fort Worth, my dad just take me to Texas Rangers games all the time and that was our thing together. Now with my son, it’s cool to have Austin FC is our thing together.

Landon Cotham Talking about the next generation getting into this team. Austin FC played a friendly against Grays a couple of years back and it is a huge team in Mexico. A lot of fans and it’s not that far away from here. So a lot of fans here in Austin and in Texas as well. So I was very curious what the stadium was going to look like for that game. And the thing that like kind of caught me off guard a little bit. Walking into the stadium that day is a lot of parents wearing T Gray’s shirts, holding the hand of a little kid wearing an Austin FC shirt. And so, yeah, T grazes is for these parents like T grazes my club. But for these kids growing up in Austin, that’s going to be their club for this next generation. So that was something I hadn’t quite considered. But that is that is clearly happening.

Jimmy Maas All right. Landon Cottam, Jeremiah Bentley, veterans of the soccer podcast scene here in Austin. Moon tower soccer, catch it at Moon Tower soccer.com or wherever you get your podcasts.

Landon Cotham Showing us rookies how how it’s done.

Jimmy Maas That’s right. Yeah.

Landon Cotham You’ve been listening to the Vamos Verde podcast from KUT & KUTX Studios.

Jimmy Maas Big thanks to Jeremiah Bentley, Landon Cottom, Mélat, and Brad Stuver for being our guests on episode one. Also, Elizabeth McQueen, Zahra Crim, Patricia Lim, Lorianne Willette, Jake Pearlman, and Rene Chavez here on the KUT side, as well as Cameron Koubeck and Ryan Madden and all the folks at Austin FC for their help in making this podcast. Our music is written and performed by Jaron Marshall.

This transcript was transcribed by AI, and lightly edited by a human. Accuracy may vary. This text may be revised in the future.


Episodes

April 11, 2024

Chicken Run: Daniel Pereira + Austin FC Superstitions + Pollo’s Great Escape

We talk with Austin FC midfielder Daniel Pereira about living with his parents, the hokey pokey in Virginia, baseball in Venezuela, and why he’s the most-hated Austin player (so far) in our very unofficial poll. We also drill down into fan superstitions and why Pollo is so beloved.

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Emiliano Rigoni Full Interview en Español

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March 28, 2024

Té for Two: Austin Musician Gina Chávez and Winger Emliano Rigoni.

Co-host Jimmy Maas interviews Austin based singer Gina Chávez. Then Colombiano co-host Juan Garcia kicks off the conversation with Emiliano Rigoni, the senior midfielder of Austin FC, entirely in Spanish.

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March 14, 2024

Pump up the Volume: Gyasi Zardes & Austin FC Match Day DJs Peligrosa

Austin FC striker Gyasi Zardes speaks on the all-time greats he’s played with, plus how music has helped him find balance and how parenthood changed him. Plus the home game DJs for Austin FC, Peligrosa.

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February 29, 2024

A New Hope: Austin FC’s season opener w/ goalie Brad Stuver and singer Mélat

Goalie Brad Stuver talks to hosts Jimmy Maas and Juan Garcia about his pre-game ritual, his favorite date night spot in Austin, and how he makes sure that what happens on the field stays on the field. Plus Austin musician Mélat and Jeremiah Bentley and Landon Cotham from the Moontower Soccer podcast.

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February 9, 2024

Trailer: ¡Vamos Verde!

¡Vamos Verde! is a podcast that looks at the intersection of Austin FC and the community that surrounds it. The first episode comes out on Feb 29th, with episodes coming out every other Thursday through the end of the season.

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