Austin’s Major League Soccer franchise announced July 6 that it has signed Rodney Redes, a 20-year old Paraguayan forward, as the club’s first roster player.
“It is a special day. It’s our first of what will be many firsts,” Austin FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said. “It is still a few months until we play, but to have our first player, to have our fans picture Rodney running in our stadium ... is exciting.”
Austin FC declined to disclose the transfer fee paid for Redes or the player’s wages. The Paraguayan international player will officially join Austin FC in January 2021, according to the team.
Redes joins Austin FC on transfer from Paraguayan professional team Club Guarani, where he has played since 2018. The young forward has appeared in six of Club Guarani’s seven matches in the 2020 season, scoring two goals, according to Austin FC. Redes has also scored three goals for Club Guarani in eight Copa Libertadores matches.
“Those games definitely help when you play at the biggest stage in South America,” Reyna said.
Austin FC will be just the second professional club in Redes’ career, as the forward signed his first professional contract with Club Guarani in 2018. Redes will continue to play for the Paraguayan club until his contract with Austin FC begins next year.
Austin FC Head Coach Josh Wolff said that extra window of playing time is an important bonus for the club as it constructs its roster. As leagues across the world stop and resume play in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Wolff said it was important to the team to know where Redes was going to play before arriving in the U.S.
“Part of this is to make sure our players arrive fit and sharp,” Wolff said July 6. “A lot of these players that are presented to us—it’s a challenge to find where they can play for the rest of the year. That plays into the decision.”
Wolff said Redes first appeared on his radar when the Austin FC coach was in Columbia with the U.S. men’s national soccer team this past January for the CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic Tournament.
Over the next several months, Austin FC officials met with Redes over Zoom calls to court the player and to identify Redes’ professional and international career aspirations.
“One of our shared goals as a club with [Redes] is that he makes it onto the Paraguayan national team. ... That is what he's hungry for—to put on his country’s jersey,” Reyna said.
According to Austin FC, Redes will occupy one of the team’s international player slots for the 2021 MLS season. For the 2020 MLS season, a total of 208 international player slots were divided among the league’s 26 clubs, according to MLS.
Redes’ signing follows a recent trend of MLS expansion clubs bringing in young international players for their inaugural signings.
“We have to help develop [Redes]. He’s not a finished product. We take that responsibility very seriously,” Wolff said.
In November 2018, Nashville SC, which began play in the 2020 MLS season, announced the signing of then-23-year-old Daniel Rios, a Mexican international, as the club’s first player. Months later, MLS expansion team Inter Miami CF inked deals with two 19-year old Argentine players as the club’s first-ever players.
The Charlotte MLS franchise, which is expected to begin play next year alongside Austin FC, has yet to announce its first player signing.
Now, Wolff and Austin FC staff will continue to scout players to round out the MLS expansion club’s roster. Reyna said Austin FC will scout the upcoming MLS Is Back tournament for potential roster players.
After temporarily suspending its 2020 season due to the coroanvirus pandemic, the MLS announced in early June that it will resume play with a monthlong tournament. The 2020 MLS regular season will resume play after the tournament, according to MLS.
Construction on the Austin FC stadium at McKalla Place in North Austin is still underway and is on track to finish on time for the 2021 MLS season, according to Tom Webb, vice president of public relations and broadcast for Austin FC.