The Austin FC Academy teams traveled down I-35 to face San Antonio FC this past Saturday, and came away with good results in all three of their matches. The U15s battled SAFC to a 1-1 draw, while the U14s came away with a 1-0 win, and U13s posted a 2-1 victory.
It was a rematch of the MLS Next season opener back in September, when all three Academy teams were victorious at home. According to Austin FC Academy Director Tyson Wahl, the closer scorelines from Saturday’s matches are more indicative of SAFC’s talent and experience than the September matches might have reflected.
And yet, the Fall performances, taken together, show the growth of Austin FC’s Academy players since they first took the field in August 2019.
“For us to go 5-0-1 against SAFC, across all levels, is really impressive,” Wahl notes. “And I think shows how much our Academy has grown in just one short year.”
He contrasted how the then-U14s fared in its first SAFC matchup to now, where “all age groups are in a position where we expect to control the games against them. I think that says a lot about how much we've improved.”
The U15s found themselves up against a much less rusty SAFC team than they encountered in September, and Wahl found some encouraging signs, along with some learning opportunities in the draw.
“It was a pretty intense game,” he noted. “We started out really strong in the first half, we had a lot of energy and created a lot of goalscoring chances. We could have scored multiple goals in that first half and perhaps it would have been a different scoreline.”
Though Austin FC opened up a lead, SAFC was able to find an equalizer through a set piece in the second half. “We made an error passing out of the back, which is something we have to be courageous enough to continue to try to do again. We won't punish our kids for trying to do that. That's how we play and we're committed to it.” That error, however, led to Austin FC fouling while trying to recover the ball, and SAFC made the most of their free kick opportunity.
Wahl noted, in the U14 win, that the squad was able to get a first-half goal to set the tone, thanks to a defender making an attacking run and scoring. “I’m happy to see our defenders getting into the attack more,” he noted. “I think that's something all of our teams need to improve on.”
While the U13s started slower than they’d have liked, and gave up the opening goal, they were able to retain their focus and come back with two second-half goals to seal the win. “It was kind of like a punch to the stomach,” Wahl said of that first goal. “I think sometimes, unfortunately, that happens in soccer. It takes giving up a goal to wake a team up.”
“I think we were sluggish in our warm-up and sluggish at the start of the game, and SAFC then punished us for that,” he continued. “But we had a really good mentality. These U13s never get too low, and I think that that's a positive thing. They’re pretty resilient and pretty positive.”
On the whole, Wahl thought the entire body of work in San Antonio reflected well on how the teams are continuing to progress. “Overall, we’re very pleased with how we’re developing,” he noted, adding that the teams have been able to get a lot of games in a row under their belts, following good pandemic protocols in a year where some academies have had to limit competition.
Austin FC will continue its MLS Next Fall campaign Saturday, with the U14s and U13s hosting their counterparts from Houston’s Total Football Club. The U15s, meanwhile, will take their longest-ever day trip, journeying to the Rio Grande Valley for a rematch with the RGV FC Toros Academy. The U15s won their home match against RGV on October 17 by a 2-0 score.