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Sebastián Driussi drives Austin FC forward: “I always want to win” | MLSSoccer.com

Sebastián Driussi drives Austin FC forward: “I always want to win” | MLSSoccer.com

You’ll have to forgive him. He’s aware it can make him stand out, but it’s what he knows. Forged at River Plate, where they sing, “This year you have to win the cup,” and really mean it, the Austin FC attacker is uncompromisingly competitive.

Even now, years after leaving Buenos Aires, Driussi struggles to even out fans’ kindness here, their desire to let him be a human and enjoy life without the constant demand for another top performance, earning a victory, securing a trophy.

“In Argentina, there’s a lot of pressure during the entire week. People are very passionate. I never had any peace, moments I could go out and spend with my family,” Driussi told MLSsoccer.com.

“So, here, I found that peace, those calm moments with my family and could enjoy things a bit more, which I wanted.”

Good pressure

He wanted that because he knew he needed it – and, look, Driussi jokes, he can sit and relax with the best of them, too, planting himself on the couch for “24 hours” the Sunday after a match. He can’t turn off the soccer, though, admitting sometimes he gets in trouble with his wife for getting bored during a show. He’d rather watch more MLS or an Argentine match.

This vigor for the sport, for competition and for getting better every day is why Driussi is here, wearing the armband for Austin FC, signing a contract extension that will keep him at the club at least through next season with an option for 2026. It’s why the start of this year has been frustrating for him, missing the first two matches with a hamstring issue, and why last season’s 12th-place finish in the Western Conference still eats at him.

“I think after a really good 2022, we made a big mistake in 2023, which was thinking we could relax and thinking we were going to easily qualify [for the playoffs],” he said. “This league isn’t like that. If you don’t compete, you’re not getting into the playoffs because every opponent, every match is very difficult.”

It was true of last week’s scoreless draw at Seattle Sounders FC and will be true in Saturday’s contest at Q2 Stadium against St. Louis CITY SC (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass), when Driussi hopes to make his 2024 debut.

The 2022 Landon Donovan MLS MVP finalist is happy to take criticism for a 2023 season that saw him fall short of the lofty heights set in that 2022 season when he contributed 22 goals and seven assists. Last season, he tallied 11 goals and had five assists.

Instead of grace for the downturn in form, he wants all the smoke, including, and perhaps especially, from his supporters.

“Right now, you miss that because you can feel good pressure. If you don’t produce on a weekend, you know what’s going to happen,” Driussi said. “In Argentina, you played poorly and you know that on TV, the journalists, fans who are crazy about soccer are going to be there Monday.

“… Sometimes you miss it, miss people saying, ‘Che, you’re doing things poorly!’ For a player, that’s good.”

Captain of vibes

So, as captain, he works to find the right balance between applying that pressure to his teammates and fostering the good vibes he found in the locker room when he arrived from Zenit Saint Petersburg as a Designated Player in the summer of 2021.

Upon landing in Austin, he hit it off with fellow Argentine Maxi Urruti and Uruguayan-American Diego Fagúndez, launching a sporadic live chat called Mate con Vos in which the players (and a teddy bear mascot named Tik) would sip the South American tea and take fan questions.

While those players are no longer on the roster, Driussi said the locker room is still united and understands the style head coach Josh Wolff wants to put on the field.

“Obviously I was making friendships from the moment I arrived and got on well with some guys who were living here,” he said. “Doing Mate con Vos, the asados, that’s to bring the group together, to be united, to see different opinions or hear what each person thinks. It’s good, to relate in that way, to create those relationships.”

The relationships on the field may still be coming along this year as Austin look to integrate forward Diego Rubio and winger Jáder Obrian, but Driussi is ready to get on the field and try to replicate the 2022 season that put Austin FC second in the Western Conference.

Competitive fire

Now 28, Austin’s No. 10 says he “always” feels the same spirit he felt when playing informal games growing up in Buenos Aires. Yet, it’s how he reads the game that often leads to the moments when he finds the back of the net.

“I have an assistant who speaks Spanish here and he tells me, ‘The space will be here. We’re going to move you here. You can be dangerous down this side,’ so I try to scan what’s going in the game a bit and then try to find the spaces where I’ll be able to be free or inflict damage,” he said.

Austin FC need that from Driussi this season, for him to once again harness the emotions, find the right spaces and inflict maximum destruction on opposing back lines. For Driussi, it all comes back to the hunger to compete and the intensity it takes to try and reach his goals.

“I never am going to lose that desire to keep growing and keep growing as a competitor,” he said. “That’s what I am. I always want to win and get angry when I lose or when I lose balls I shouldn’t lose. I get angry at myself as well. I’ll never lose that.”

It’s all worth it when he keeps the ball, when he puts it across the line and when that pressure releases. When he sees the Austin FC fans who love him and they can say, genuinely, “Nice goal. Great game. Huge win.”

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