It has been a long wait for Austin FC fans to see their team take the field. It started over two years ago when Austin was announced as the 27th MLS club by MLS Commissioner Don Garber at Rustic Tap.
That wait is going to end on Saturday when Austin will head to Los Angeles to take on LAFC in the club’s first MLS match.
“We’re thankful for their patience,” said head coach Josh Wolff on Tuesday when asked what his message to the fans was. “We’re hoping to put a team out there that quenches their thirst that they’ve had and we have a blend of talent and diversity and energy within our group.”
When the team finally does take the field at Banc of California Stadium, it will be the culmination of the hard work put in by Founder, Majority Owner and CEO Anthony Precourt, President Andy Loughnane, Sporting Director Claudio Reyna, Wolff, and many others behind the scenes who have dedicated their lives to making this team a success.
The team that Reyna, Wolff and the rest of the technical staff has put together is expected to be one that controls the game with the ball and scores plenty of goals -- as evidenced by their 10 goals during the La Copita preseason tournament. Maintaining that control, even against a difficult opponent, will be critical when there are so many emotions heading into a first match.
“We turned the page on preseason as we concluded on Sunday and we have full focus on our first game against LAFC,” said Wolff. “There is a noticeable excitement about it. I think there’s also going to be a nervousness, which is also to be expected. It’s our first game in club history and it is an exciting moment, but it’s also about being prepared and staying calm and focusing on what we need to do to go there and have success.”
The wait for the players to take the field in verde and black hasn’t been as long as it has been for the fans to watch them, but it can be just as excruciating. Winger Cecilio Domínguez last took the field for Guarani in December, and has waited almost four months to make his MLS debut.
“Playing soccer, it’s our passion, it’s our life and to not have played it for a while -- it’s somewhat complicated,” said the Paraguayan during a press conference on Thursday. “But like I said, it’s our passion and we’re really excited and anxious as well to show the rest of the nation and Austin that we’re finally ready to get the season started. It’s a privilege to play for Austin and it’ll be a historic day to finally play our inaugural game.”
Saturday will not be the completion of the Austin FC project, just the start of the next phase. After waiting two years, Austin will finally be able to see a team represent their city in a major professional sports league.
Of course, ATXFC will be starting the season with seven-straight road games. They will have to wait until June 19 to play in front of their home fans at Q2 Stadium. From there Wolff and co. will be looking to become the latest expansion team to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“...We’re as ready as we can be. We know there’s a lot of work ahead, but the emotion and the players’ willingness to commit has been great so we look forward to this challenge,” said Wolff. “It will be exciting, it’ll be nerve-wracking, it’ll be a mix of many emotions but that’s what the game is. We’ll get there, we’ll go in and compete, we’ll have a strategy and we’ll see how we fare.”