5.10.21 Servania DL
SKN St. Pölten

FC Dallas' Brandon Servania on his Loan to Austria, a New Position and the Pressures of Relegation

FRISCO, Texas – While FC Dallas played to a 1-1 home draw with Houston Dynamo Saturday afternoon, half a world away Homegrown midfielder Brandon Servania watched from the sidelines as his loan club SKN St. Pölten was relegated to Austria’s second division.

It was a disappointing end for Servania (and for St. Pölten’s five-year stay in the Austrian Bundesliga) but positives remain from the Alabama native’s four-month European adventure. Servania began the year training at Bayern Munich as part FCD’s player development partnership with the Bavarian giants. Near the end of his time in Germany, the 22-year-old had a chance to prove himself and extend his stay across the Atlantic.

“Towards the end of the training stint, another club in Austria that Bayern has an affiliation with wanted us to come on trial and see what we were about,” Servania explained. “Me, along with two guys from the (Bayern) U-23s, came over here (to St. Pölten), trained for about a week and played a friendly match. I guess they liked what they saw and they gave me an opportunity.”

Once the loan deal was agreed, Servania needed to navigate a new country, language, and playstyle. While he learned enough German to get by on the field, adapting to a more direct and physical league proved difficult, especially with a team in the midst of a relegation battle.

Prior to the loan, Servania had only played in FC Dallas' Academy, Wake Forest and the FCD first team—all programs that, as Servania’s puts it, “try to play good football and build out of the back with possession-based soccer”. But St. Pölten’s tenuous league position meant they couldn’t afford such risks: “Coming here, it’s not all direct passing but it’s a lot less risky,” Servania said. “There’s a lot more deep balls, winning headers, aerial duels and things like that. Just adapting to know when it’s a good time to try to play out of the back and when we have to just get it forward and try to counter them.”

Servania also had to adapt to a new position. Although he initially played in his preferred central midfield spot, a coaching change at St. Pölten meant Servania was soon asked to play right back.

“It was my first time playing right back so that was kind of interesting. I think I did well enough for the first time, tactically and positionally wasn’t the best but it comes with experience at the position.”

If the learning curve of a new position in an unfamiliar league wasn’t enough, it was steepened by the looming threat of St. Pölten’s relegation to the second tier.

“Just the pressure is crazy,” Servania admitted. “Fighting relegation is a huge deal and it’s scary to a lot of the guys. At the end of the day, I’m only on loan. But here, people are fighting for their families and to put food on the table. It’s so much different to MLS where you could lose every game and there’s no penalty, but here you’d drop down a whole league so there’s money on the line. It’s makes everything more intense and every point matters especially at the last stretch.

“I’ve been here for three months and I’ve had three coaches. The head coach when I came in was fired, then we had an interim coach, and now we just hired a new coach who came in a few days ago. So, there’s been a lot of adjusting.”

In the end, SKN St. Pölten came up short and relegation was confirmed after a 2-0 defeat to Admira Wacker Mödling last Saturday. And while his stay in Austria ultimately ended on a sad note, Servania appreciated the up-and-down journey.

“(It was a) good opportunity to see more first team minutes in another environment,” he concluded. “Just to adapt and be able to take away as much as I can because the league is different, the style of play is a little bit different. The whole experience was learning new things. Not just style of play but the position change, the language, everything.”