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It hurts now, but Diego Fagundez leaving Austin FC might be a good thing

A person in a green and black soccer kit jobs on a field.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Austin FC midfielder (and fan favorite) Diego Fagundez was traded to the LA Galaxy this week.

Austin FC made a move this week that seemed unthinkable: sending fan-favorite Diego Fagundez to the LA Galaxy in exchange for more financial flexibility as the club tries to stay competitive.

The age-old adage of sports being a business does little to blunt the impact of a player like Fagundez leaving the city that embraced him from Day One. The midfielder carved his name into Austin’s history, becoming the first Austin FC player to score a goal for the club. And no one on the team connected with the fans and the city like him.

But good things sometimes come to an end. Major League Soccer has some restrictive rules on rosters and how much it pays players. At his second press conference since becoming the club's new sporting director, Rodolfo Borrell stressed just how little financial flexibility the team had to sign new players before the last-minute deal.

"We had none. We literally had none,” he said. “It’s not possible to bring a player because if there is no space, it’s impossible.”

Fagundez was one of the highest paid players on the club. He leaves Austin after the team was eliminated from the Leagues Cup following back-to-back 3-1 home losses.

The trade brings native Texan Memo Rodriguez back to the state from Los Angeles. He won’t replace Fagundez, but his smaller contract allows Austin FC the financial room to plan for the winter transfer window that opens at the end of the season.

Borrell said the team is still aiming to compete in the playoffs this year, but admitted the move to trade Fagundez was meant to strengthen the club’s long-term prospects. Fans shouldn’t expect any more new players until the winter transfer window, he said.

Borrell said Rodriguez was not a replacement for Faugndez.

"This is far from the reality,” he said. “We are trying to be rational and to make decisions looking forward to develop the team for the near future.”

Whatever drove the decision to move on from Fagundez, there's no denying the off-the-pitch impact he had on the city. A large contingent of Verde and Black faithful showed up Tuesday at Hopsquad to see the player off to his next chapter in LA.

It may take a handful of big signings in the winter for fans to understand the organization's decision.

Juan Garcia is a producer at KUT. Got a tip? You can email him at
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