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I first kicked a ball at Caldwell Heights Elementary School. Just down the street from Sonic off University Boulevard in Round Rock – not far from my childhood home.  

As soon as I started playing, I knew I had found my thing. The game engulfed me. The people did too. From my first organized practice at Caldwell Heights Elementary School to my last practice at St. Stephens Episcopal School, the soccer community in Austin embraced me with open arms.  

Y’all have been like family to me.  

I probably don’t say it enough, but you all helped light the spark. You helped ignite my dream.  

Who would’ve known that years after entering the professional realm and embarking on a career that took me halfway across the world, I’d find myself right back in the city where it all began? 

From Town and Country Sports Complex to Northeast Metro Park, St. Stephens to Zilker Park, some of the fondest memories that I have as a kid come from having a ball at my feet here in Austin. So, it’s only fitting that the fondest memories that I have as a professional come from having the ball at my feet in my hometown too.

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There truly aren’t words that do justice to the sense of pride that I feel to be the first Austin-born player to represent the Club. My genuine wish is that I’m the first of many. Austin is a city where people are allowed to dream. It’s exciting that kids growing up now who share my childhood dream have the opportunity to showcase themselves in the city that shaped them. Molded them. Raised them.  

It’s an honor to be the first Austinite to represent this special Club, but I know that I’ll by no means be the last. That’s a feeling that fills me with immeasurable excitement. Each time that I pull on the shirt and cross the white lines onto the pitch, I know that I’m playing for more than just myself. I’m playing for each and every one of the thousands of screaming Austinites who support us every single night, for each and every teammate that I played with growing up here in Austin, and for my family and friends who are in attendance for every home game. Each time the I look down and see the crest, that’s what it represents for me. 

To score a goal in the city where I grew up on a night where my parents and my closest friends were in attendance is something that I’ll hold with me for the rest of my life. Words don’t do it justice. Austin - thank you for making it all possible. Thank you all for the unwavering support that you’ve shown our team this season. From the first whistle to the final whistle, you guys are with us. After playing in stadiums all over the world, I can confidently say that there’s nothing like playing in Austin.

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Thank you for being you and thank for being our voice. Thank you for inspiring the dreams of not only the players who you support, but of each and every player growing up here in Austin. 

With love,  
McKinze Gaines