When I signed with Austin FC last December, a lot of people asked me why I wanted to come here.
I get it. From the outside they were seeing a team that just finished 12th in the West. But I saw something different. I saw a Club with a distinct identity. A cultural phenomenon. And a place that had everything it needed to be successful.
So my answer was simple: I want to compete, and I want to win trophies. And this is the Club where I can do that.
Looking back on that decision now, that’s exactly the path that we’re on as a team.
This Sunday, Austin FC will play its first-ever home playoff game. The city of Austin will host its first-ever major league professional playoff game. That’s something very special. Something that makes me proud.
From the first day of preseason until now, we’ve grown as a group. We’ve come into our own. We’ve built on the foundation that was set last year, and I feel like we got a little bit better each game. There were ups. There were downs.
But this team, in the face of adversity, stayed together and always believed we could go into any game, home or away, and win.
I think back to losing 4-1 at LA Galaxy in May, and the way we lost after being up a goal. We didn’t panic. We didn’t let doubt creep in. We came back and went unbeaten for our next seven games. Four straight wins on the road. From that moment on, we fed off that mentality.
We’ve also fed off the support of our fans. I’ve really appreciated them since Day One. They’re our HEARTBEAT – cheering us, pushing us, lifting our spirits, at Q2 and around the country.
To each one of you, I want you to know that your support - your voices - have been extremely important to our success this season. We’ll need you for the next four games.
Make no mistake about it though – we’re both proud of what we’ve achieved, and far from satisfied. We’re hungry to prove that we can do it when it really matters. To make a statement for Austin. To make dreams come true for the people of this city. This is an experienced group. We know that now is the time to dig in.
This is my sixth time making the playoffs in MLS, and let me tell you, the whole feel around a playoff game is different. There’ll be butterflies. There’ll be anxiety. There’ll also be a quiet confidence we’ll take the field with that stems from belief in ourselves. We know we’re prepared for it.
Eleven guys are going to start on Sunday, but I guarantee you everyone in Q2 is going to make a difference. Five subs are going to have to come in and have an impact, whether in normal time, extra time, or PKs. Our fans are going to make the other team feel like EVERY moment is a big moment.
I always talk about people, product, process as a recipe for success. We’ve got great people here. Our product is extremely attractive. Our process, and everything that we do on and off the field, is first class. Making the playoffs, and all the progress we’ve made this season, is a culmination of that.
This will be the first of many playoffs that Austin competes in, the first of many MLS Cups we have the chance to raise here.
Embrace every moment of this opportunity we’ve earned together. There are challenges ahead, and we’ll face them as a team, as a community, as a family that believes in each other.