Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a winning soccer team.
Part of any successful soccer team is having a winning culture around the club both on and off the field. On the field, we saw on Wednesday that this team has no quit in them. Austin went down 2-0 in the first half to FC Dallas but fought back to take a 3-2 lead in the second before conceding an equalizer and falling in a penalty-kick shootout.
Head coach Josh Wolff made it clear that he was happy with his team’s performance throughout the match, even in the first half. But Wolff made it clear that high quality of play doesn’t just happen organically, it is something that needs to be worked on day in and day out.
“You start with some standards, you start with some with the environment and culture that you’re building and what our work looks like every day,” said Wolff during a press conference on Friday. “You don’t focus on winning, you focus on what we’re doing.”
A comeback like the one we saw against FC Dallas can instill confidence in a team as they look to build something special in an expansion season and beyond. But that’s what Wolff will be looking for every day going forward as the team plays in their first season.
“When you’re talking about a culture and an environment, it has to be present every day. Those standards can’t dip, those ideas don’t fade. They’re in the forefront every day in the way we train, the way we workout in the gym... I think those are really important in what we’re trying to build.”
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver is battling Andrew Tarbell to be Austin’s starter and he was the one in the net for the whole game on Wednesday. The 29-year-old is entering his eighth MLS season and has missed the MLS Cup Playoffs just once in his first seven years. He knows what it takes to have a successful year.
“I think we have a lot of MLS veterans that have seen how MLS works,” said Stuver after the match on Wednesday. “They have made MLS Cup runs, they’ve won MLS championships. So it’s one of those things where you’ve just got to embrace the process.”
Jon Gallagher is among the Austin FC players who has won an MLS championship, having won MLS Cup in 2018 with Atlanta United. He joins Matt Besler (2013, Sporting Kansas City) and former Columbus Crew SC teammates -- who joined Austin after winning MLS Cup last year -- Hector Jimenez and Sebastian Berhalter as four players who have lifted the Philip F. Anschutz trophy.
“The captains, leaders, and veterans here have done a good job of instilling the rules and the expectations for this year,” said the forward on Friday. “[They’ve] mainly been getting everybody on board. I think that’s something that is tough to do in a pro setting, having everybody invested in the goals that you want to achieve as a team, but also how you handle yourself off the field and in the locker room.”
Of course we won’t know if ATXFC will be getting into the win column in MLS until April 17, but there’s little doubt that the groundwork to do so will continue to be laid every day.