For a team to rise from near the bottom of the table to contenders at the top in just a year, it needs a special performer to step up. For Austin FC this season, that has been Sebastian Driussi.
The Argentine midfielder has, at times, carried his team on his back, proving a goalscoring machine and a creative linchpin with 22 goals and five primary assists in 34 regular-season appearances.
That’s even a marked improvement from the five goals and eight assists in 17 games last year, when Driussi only joined halfway through the season. But then, given his pedigree, we shouldn’t have expected any less.
After all, Driussi is a player who hails from the same River Plate youth system that has produced legends of the game such as Pablo Aimar, Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain, and Hernan Crespo.
Driussi flourished in his homeland and in the 2016/17 season, netted 20 goals in 36 appearances across all competitions – enough to earn him a long-awaited move to Europea with Russian giants Zenit Saint Petersburg.
Though he scored 19 goals across his first two seasons, Driussi’s time in Russia was somewhat less successful and slowly but surely, he fell down the pecking order. The path to Major League Soccer was opening up before him and when he did arrive Stateside, Driussi was stronger for his European experiences.
“That is part of the reason why he is in the moment that he is sporting-wise,” fellow Argentine and Portland Timbers icon Diego Valeri said of Driussi earlier this year. “He is mature, he has a lot of experiences, he’s very competitive – all of that collaborates into his performance, but certainly there is a lot of value in what he has already conquered.”
In his first full season with the club, Driussi’s 22 goals have guided Austin FC all the way up to second in the Western Conference. Only the Philadelphia Union (72) and LAFC (66) have scored more than the Verde and Black (65) and although he may not win the award, Driussi is rightly at the front of the MVP conversation.
“He’s a very tactical player, with a lot of power,” said veteran NYCFC playmaker and compatriot Maxi Moralez. “He’s not a big No. 9 but rather knows how to manage his speed in very small spaces, but you can clearly see the quality that he has in front of goal. Is he the MVP? For me, yes. There are still a few games to go, but what he is doing is superb.”
Driussi himself will likely be paying very little attention to individual awards, though losing the Golden Boot race to Hany Mukhtar to just a single goal may hurt.