Amidst all the excitement of Austin FC recording the first win in Club history on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids, there was also some sadness. Left back Ben Sweat suffered a knee injury that resulted in him having to be substituted out of the match and on Tuesday the Club announced that the defender had torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
The injury could see the 29-year-old out for some time. Luckily his replacement had arrived just a few weeks ago.
Žan Kolmanič joined the Club on loan from Maribor, having played professionally for four years. He has also made appearances with the Slovenian youth national team. The 21-year-old appeared in both of Austin’s first two matches, showing well as he helped drive ATXFC to the win in Colorado. For head coach Josh Wolff, it’s clear who will be getting Sweat’s minutes at left back.
“Žan will be the guy that gets most of the minutes and he’s performed really well,” said Wolff during a press conference on Tuesday. “Coming in vs. LAFC he did really well, more than anything it’s getting him up to speed with the league and getting him acclimated to our training and our environment. He’s transitioned very well and his quality is pretty clear when he’s on the field -- with his calmness and ability to deliver crosses.”
Kolmanič arrived in Austin just before preseason and did not feature during La Copita. But fitness will not be much of an issue as the defender is coming off a season in Slovenia where he featured in 20 matches.
What’s been clear in the 87 minutes he has played for ATXFC is that he has a special ability going forward into the attack. His crosses have been pinpoint and Wolff has also highlighted his possession play.
“I think when you see him on the field he brings a natural calmness. [He has] very good decision-making, very good interior passing and his service from wide -- early or getting to the endline -- to me is amongst the best in the league. His left-footed service -- the weight, the consistency, the delivery -- is really incredible.”
For the defender coming to MLS was an easy decision. He described during a press conference that his first impressions of the league are that the tempo in MLS is much higher than what he saw in his own domestic league.
He was also asked which left back’s he models his game after. The one name he highlighted will be very familiar to any MLS fan.
“I really love Alphonso Davies right now,” said Kolmanič. “He’s made a big impact in Europe and he’s come from MLS so my decision to come here wasn’t really tough because of that.”