In the opening chapter of what promises to be a keen rivalry between Austin FC Academy and FC Dallas Academy, all three Austin teams lost tough battles to their northern neighbors on Saturday. But for Austin FC Academy Director Tyson Wahl, the matches provided an opportunity to learn and grow.
“The biggest takeaway is that we knew this was going to be a good kind of benchmarking weekend,” Wahl said. “All three teams have improved so much, and we’ve only been in existence as an academy for a year and a half.”
“You have to give respect to FC Dallas,” Wahl noted of the pioneering MLS academy, founded in 2008. “They've had an academy in existence for a long time. They're known to be a strong academy, and all three teams they fielded were very strong teams with very strong players.”
The U15s, who were affected with injuries to some key players, fought well but ended up on the short end of a 3-1 scoreline. Wahl noted that the match provided some teaching moments for a team facing a quality opponent. Prior to Saturday’s match, Top Drawer Soccer released national U15 rankings that had Austin FC and FC Dallas’s teams at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively.
“When you play a high-level team that’s very deep, and they have quality players in their starting 11 and also on the bench. you can't take plays off,” Wahl observed. “We have to be focused, and also more urgent in certain situations like in and around our own box. Dallas was very good at finding the third man in combinations. They also created chances when they got into the attacking third … and I don't think we recognized the threat as quickly as we could have.”
Wahl notes that the U15’s lone goal was highlight reel-worthy — a volley from 30 yards out that he ranks as the best of the season, as far as aesthetics go.
The U14s and U13s had closer margins in their matches, finishing 3-2 for the U14s and 4-3 for the U13s. Wahl saw similarities in those two matches, in that both teams had strong first halves.
“I think we showed a lot of courage,” Wahl said of the U14s. “That team has been learning how to pass under pressure and build out of the back. And I think both the players were pleased that and the staff was really pleased that they did a very good job of building out of the back and advancing the ball through the thirds. It was probably the best first half, I've seen them play, so they did tremendously well playing a high-level team, so we're proud of them.”
“We came out really strong and the game was very even in the first half,” Wahl noted. “We couldn't maintain the same performance level, essentially, and FC Dallas outplayed us in the second half.” He also noted that the FC Dallas U13 reactions to the win showed Wahl how much respect Austin FC’s getting in such a relatively short time.
“That gives us a perspective that they respect us and that they also thought that this was going to be a good matchup and that they wanted to beat us, that it wasn't going to be a cakewalk for them. It's a good sign that we kind of put ourselves on the map within the league.”
Wahl also notes that all three teams appear ready to learn from the matches and apply the lessons to future contests — starting with a challenging road trip this weekend against SAFC. Though the Academy teams won’t get to test themselves against FC Dallas until the Spring 2021 season, Wahl thinks they’ll be motivated to face them again.
“Psychologically, when you leave the game, I think it's important for these kids to build resilience and build responsiveness —how do they react to this past weekend?” Wahl asked. “I think that's a great learning opportunity for them to come back on Monday and get back to work and start enjoying the game and smiling and playing soccer.”