Austin FC’s match against LAFC on May 18 was one of the biggest matches in Club history, a chance to leap into first place with a win – but one that wouldn’t be easy against the team that, at the time, occupied first place and hadn’t yet lost at home in 2022. Starting a 17-year-old in a game of so much importance might not be met with enthusiasm by every fanbase, but when Austin FC released its lineup, supporters were excited to see what Owen Wolff could do in his first appearance as a starter.
After an excellent 30-minute cameo against Real Salt Lake days prior in which he created two chances and completed 11 of 12 passes, Wolff put in a solid shift as a starter in the Verde & Black’s statement 2-1 win over LAFC, as he became the first Homegrown player to start a match for Austin FC and the fourth-youngest player in MLS to start a match this season.
“I was really excited to be part of the starting eleven, especially with the game being so important,” said Wolff. “It’s a good match that we had, it was a tough game. Going to LAFC is never easy. They’re the home team, they’re going to bring the intensity and the speed. Looking around the stadium, I was really excited. The atmosphere was great and we were really happy to get the three points on the road.”
His performance was good enough to warrant the match ball, passed to him post-match from captain Alex Ring.
“I was really thankful and grateful to be a part of the team,” said Wolff. “It was nice of Alex to give me the game ball. He played a great game, worked really hard, and he deserved that ball but he decided to give it to me. I was just really happy to get it.”
"He's earned his place in this team... he's very humble, works hard, has a fantastic attitude,” said Ring of Wolff.
Following the LAFC match, Wolff made a second-straight start against Orlando and put up another impressive stat line, completing 23 of 24 passes and creating a game-high five chances. He started for a third-consecutive match against the LA Galaxy, and recorded his first MLS assist, setting up Diego Fagundez's 53rd minute goal.
His recent performances have turned heads outside Austin as well, earning Wolff a call-up to the U-19 U.S. Men's Youth National Team for its June friendlies in Spain against England and Norway.
As his minutes increase, Wolff gleans more and more knowledge from his veteran teammates.
“Especially being the youngest player on the team, I look up to all the older guys,” said Wolff. “I feel like I can learn from everyone’s game, whether it’s Alex, Sebastián [Driussi], Jhojan Valencia, Dani Pereira, Ruben [Gabrielsen], Julio [Cascante] – all the older guys, I can look up to them.”
Wolff has earned the respect of his elder peers just as they have his, in his words, “through training, the way I play, and the way I treat people.” As ATXFC approaches a tricky stretch of the schedule which will see it play 5 of its next 6 on the road and six matches in 22 days after the June international break, Wolff’s contributions could continue to be key to the team’s success.