The parallel storylines of the first three seasons of ‘Ted Lasso’ and Austin FC

Both showed a lot of promise early on. Then they fizzled.

By Jimmy Maas, KUTOctober 23, 2023 10:00 am, , ,

From KUT:

If you follow Austin FC closely, you’re probably leaving this season with a feeling of, “What if?” or maybe, “What went wrong?”

But there are folks out there who might understand what Austin FC is going through.

And before Trent Crimm asks if this is a joke, it’s not.

There are parallels to the arcs of the first three years of Austin FC and its AppleTV+ streaming teammate, Ted Lasso.

First, the TV show.

Ted Lasso, a classic fish-out-of-water tale for a niche audience, arrived on the scene in August 2020. It was peak-pandemic. We were largely stuck at home. It turned out to be the perfect scenario to launch a TV show. Critical acclaim and word of mouth grew it into an AppleTV+ hit, driving more subscriptions.

Coach Lasso gathers his AFC Richmond players in for a huddle before a game in an episode of “Ted Lasso.”

Austin FC’s first season coincided with the end of COVID lockdowns. The combo of a years-long wait for the Austin MLS team, a novelty for non-soccer fans, along with pent-up demand to do anything with anybody made the stadium the place to be that summer.

Every game sold out. Everyone cheered. It did not matter that the team was not very good.

Then Season 2 came for both the team and the show. Things got even better, surprising many.

The TV show touched all sorts of folks, finding fans in unexpected places. It won over more critics and won a boatload of awards.

Austin FC’s season 2 started with the team scoring a lot of goals. They were led by Diego Fagúndez and Sebastian Driussi, who had career seasons. The team seemingly could do little wrong. They were competing for a championship. Fan demand hit a fever pitch.

For one game against first-place Los Angeles FC, secondary market prices for some seats hit above $1,000. The team finished second place and made it all the way to the Western Conference finals, a dream scenario for a second-year franchise.

But then, season 3.

Matthew McConaughey plays a bongo during Austin FC’s first home game against the San Jose Earthquakes on June 19, 2021.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Anticipation was through the roof. Everyone expected the show and the soccer team would somehow surpass previous successes.

Ted Lasso’s season took more than a year to be released. After that wait, TV critics and some fans just weren’t happy.

Even NPR’s Eric Deggans, who gave the first two seasons good reviews, had lukewarm things to say about season 3.

“For those who hate character development presented that obviously, this season may be a tough slog,” he said in a review.

Metaphorically, Austin FC‘s season was late getting started as well.

The off-season featured then-Sporting Director Claudio Reyna embroiled in a public feud with the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team coach, Gregg Berhalter. The fallout from that dispute put a six-month pause on Berhalter running the men’s team and —more important to this story — ended with Reyna’s departure from Austin.

On the field, the team stumbled out of the gate, losing games and key players like team captain Driussi to injury. Then, in the middle of their season, a major character was written off the show — with FC trading Fagúndez to the LA Galaxy.

The team backed themselves up into a series of must-win games at the end of the year to even make the playoffs. They then fell short.

Just as Ted Lasso had scenes on a plane in the first and last episode, Austin sits currently in 12th place in the Western Conference, exactly where it ended season 1. The end is the beginning.

But there’s hope for tomorrow, if you —ahem— believe.

Despite the criticism, the Ted Lasso team is in line for even more Emmys (once the actors’ strike is concluded and the awards are given). There’s even rumor of another season or a spinoff in the Ted Lasso world.

Season 4 of Austin FC has always been a certainty. But who will be a part of the team when they take the pitch next year remains to be seen. Austin’s new sporting director, Rodolfo Borrell, came to Austin over the summer. He’s worked in player development for Manchester City, Liverpool and Barcelona. While in Barcelona, he was involved in the youth academy that helped develop another MLS star, Lionel Messi. He just helped Man City win the 2023 FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League trophies as an assistant.

And here’s another glimmer of hope for Austin FC’s future. It has its own spinoff, if you will. Austin FC II – the club’s second-tier team — is playing in the MLS Next Pro Championship against Columbus Crew Two this weekend. That game is Sunday in Columbus.

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