This is the time of year for Major League Soccer to start their playoffs and the USSF second division are awaiting the second leg match in their championship final between the Carolina Railhawks and the Puerto Rico Islanders. This was supposed to be the fun part for one playoff season to start as another one is coming to an end. All of a sudden something broke the enjoyment of the lower levels of US Club Soccer and that volcano has erupted in Austin, Texas.
Since the 2008 season the Austin Aztex have started to become a staple in the Austin area and began as an Amateur PDL side till they made the move to USL-1st Division in 2009 and of course became a part of the US Soccer Second Division league in 2010. This past regular season the Aztex had a fantastic start leading the USL Conference and till the tail end of the regular season ran out of steam and finished second to the Rochester Rhinos who won it by a point.
While the Aztex were eliminated by the Montreal Impact in the Quarterfinals of the Division two playoffs in early October, all of a sudden a report about Aztex owner Phil Rawlins was going to move the club to Orlando, Florida in late October. That story came from Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer as he posted it on his site Friday, October 22nd. There was a possibility for Rawlins to find new investors to keep the Aztex afloat.
Even though Rawlins denied that rumor, it became reality on Monday, October 25th when he along with Orlando USL Pro owner Steve Donner sat at a table during a press conference and informed the local Orlando reporters that the Aztex had left Austin and would become Orlando City SC (Soccer Club). In a statement read by Rawlins he cited that the economic climate was a problem and there were obstacles finding new investors in Austin, but none came and they exhausted all of their options. That’s why he moved the club to Orlando and joined Steve Donnor’s side.
The supporters in Austin were blindsided by this news. As you can take a wild guess they are not happy at all. There is a sense of betrayal and anger going on and if they were aware of this growing financial problem, they would’ve been better prepared for it. Obviously the supporters would’ve tried to help Rawlins keep the club in their city if they were aware of the problem.
When the news came out that Orlando, Florida was getting a new USL pro club for the 2011 season I was very happy. If you heard my podcast show several months ago I had Adam Soucie discuss the situation. I have friends and family in the Orlando area and I consider the city my second home as I have lived there for a couple of summers as I used to work in Walt Disney World when I was in college and a fan of Disney as well.
But I have to say that I wasn’t expecting this situation to happen and was very shocked Phil Rawlins made this move. He kept the information to himself instead of trying to inform the local supporters in Austin that there could be a possibility that he could be moving the club to a different location. While I am happy for Orlando, I’m sad for Austin. I really hope someone will go there and pick up the pieces that was shattered. I will have Ed Easton from Austin, Texas on my radio show on Tuesday, November 2nd to discuss the emotions of the Aztex supporters.