A massive week awaits as Austin FC prepares to defend its Copa Tejas title in back-to-back home matches at Q2 Stadium against FC Dallas (Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. CT) and Houston Dynamo FC (Saturday at 7:30 p.m. CT).
Copa Tejas is a supporter-created prize awarded to the team with the most points in a season from intra-Texas rivalry matches between Austin FC, FC Dallas, and Houston Dynamo FC. As the newcomer to the rivalry, Austin FC burst onto the MLS scene in 2021, taking Texan bragging rights home to Austin a season later in 2022 after going unbeaten in four matches against their in-state rivals.
The Verde & Black also beat FC Dallas 2-1 in the 2022 MLS Western Conference Semifinals, a historic win for the club that sent ATXFC to the MLS Western Conference Final in just the Club’s second season. Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver was instrumental in the Club’s 2022 Copa Tejas run and spoke on Monday about the importance of the upcoming matches against Dallas and Houston.
“Being able to lift the trophy last year was great, but now we have to make sure that we defend it,” Stuver said. “We have two really important games this week, both are at home. We’re gonna use that home field advantage to the best of our ability and one, it’ll help us keep climbing in the table, but two, it’ll help us solidify that Copa Tejas.”
Austin FC fell in narrow 2-1 defeat to Houston in its first Copa Tejas match of 2023 on May 27, but with a pair of victories this week, can lift itself to the top of the Copa Tejas standings and ensure it will control its own destiny heading into the final Copa Tejas match of the season at Dallas on August 26.
Austin FC Head Coach Josh Wolff views these next two Copa Tejas games as a chance for his team to regain form.
“Capturing momentum is now in the moment of how you can execute, perform and grab the result and momentum will only be felt as you validate that as a group and you win games and take points. So we've talked about it enough. It's not about talking, it's about going out and doing it,” Wolff said. “It’s a great opportunity against a good opponent. There are plenty of storylines around. It's Copa Tejas. It's an in-state rivalry. They're above us in the standings and we know we need to start making up some ground.”
Wolff is aware of the talent that both FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo possess but stressed that they are two different opponents that have different qualities for the players and coaching staff to narrow in on.
“Dallas has an extremely good transition game. They have good speed and good verticality, as they've shown in the games that we played against them,” Wolff said. “I think against Houston, they're a very disciplined team defensively, they do a good job of preventing and not giving up a lot of goals. So we got to be mindful of both those things, but right now the focus is on Dallas.”
Austin FC forward Maxi Urruti has also played for FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo during his storied MLS career, and believes Copa Tejas remains an opportunity for ATXFC to make a statement each year as a relatively new team in the league.
“I’ve played for all three Texas teams. The rivalry is strong. Dallas and Houston have a little bit more history and that makes their rivalry a little deeper. But in these last three years, Austin has proved to be a difficult rival,” Urruti said. “Any time we play against any of the Texas teams, the fans want those three points. Last year we won Copa Tejas and that was very important for everyone.”
With all to play for in the upcoming Copa Tejas matches, Wolff knows it will take an immense team effort to retain the title.
“It’s a trophy that we currently hold, one that we want to keep our hands on and it’s going to take good performances over the next three games against these teams.”