EDITORIAL – The last time I wrote about Austin FC, I was attempting to explain why every decision their leadership team had made, delivered. From the formation of the leadership team itself to the striking stadium design, the investment in state-of-the-art training facilities, and even the choice of a locally rooted, globally recognized jersey sponsor. I’m not sure I did a very good job of explaining the ‘why’, but whatever alchemy Austin FC leaned into during some of those initial decisions, that continued with more of the same during this Austin FC off-season.
Nothing but Green Lights for Austin FC Off-Season
The inaugural jersey has dropped, and it’s a doozie! Uncommon, striking, unorthodox; Austin in a nutshell. The stadium is taking shape. The generous layer of snow that blanketed the pitch and seats at ‘The Tree House’ last week when Austin got hit by a winter storm for the first time in several years, only served to underscore its aesthetic beauty.
Similarly, the roster has begun to fill out – fast. At the end of 2020, Austin had announced 2 players. At the time of writing, less than a month later, they are up to 17, with at least another couple expected to commit during the SuperDraft on January 21st. And it’s not just quantity, it’s quality, too, with several MLS stalwarts signing up for this adventure in Verde. Wolff and Reyna’s intentional selections of seasoned pros complimenting hungry youth, a blend of home-grown + international players, is giving Austin F.C. a ready to compete right-out-of-the-gate feel.
In short, Austin F.C. is in danger of having a highly competitive team, sporting one of the more distinctive jerseys in world soccer, calling home one of the best stadia in all of MLS. So, what else needs to happen before the 2021 season eventually kicks off – whenever that may be – to make that dream scenario a reality?
Continuing to recruit well is the obvious key. Ideally, the spine of the team needs to be strong from game one. In Brad Stuver and Andrew Tarbell, Austin F.C. have two experienced goalkeepers, either one of which has the potential to command the backline. USMNT and MLS warhorse Matt Besler is the obvious natural next ‘disc’ in the backbone, with several exciting options competing to partner Besler in the heart of defense.
Alex Ring may need some additional support alongside him to shore up the midfield, but Ring himself is top-quality as is Diego Fagúndez, tucked ‘in the hole’ just ahead of him. There is no obvious line-leader in the attack, though there are a number of highly promising candidates on the roster already. Further strengthening the center of the park as well as adding a top-tier proven goal scorer will likely be among the clubs’ remaining pre-season priorities.
Beyond that, the stadium needs to be ready in advance of Austin’s home debut, as well as the brand-new performance training center. Both appear to be well on schedule. And the team’s first away shirt – cryptically named ‘The Legends Jersey’ – will be unveiled soon. In reality, though a jersey has very little to do with on-field success, the excitement it helps generate among fans is irrefutable and well in evidence when the launch of Austin’s home jersey broke the MLS single-day sales record!
Austin Football Club’s debut season is almost upon the Texas capital, but is the city ready for its first-ever professional sports franchise? Undeniably and impressively, as they could ever be.