For the second year in a row, LAFC will induct a new member into MLS in the opening game of the season, this time 2021 expansion team Austin FC. To get us ready for the upcoming opponent, since scouting a brand new team is usually a fool’s errand, I spoke to someone who is very much not a fool, Jason Poon, who contributes to American Soccer Analysis. Many thanks to Jason for taking the time to answer my questions!
1. So, Austin FC! They’re new, this will be their first game. Please tell us about the coach and what insight you may have about how they’ll try to play in their inaugural season.
There really isn’t very much historical information with Josh Wolff, head coach of Austin FC. This is is first head coaching gig, and in press conferences he’s mastered the art of saying a lot of words but without actually saying anything of real substance. Unsure if that’s by design to keep things close to the chest, but what we have seen from the limited number of pre-season games it looks like ATX will opt for a 4-3-3 and will try to play out of the back as much as possible. Whether Wolff is bold enough to try to go toe-to-toe in playing style against LAFC will be something to watch for.
2. Besides the coach, obviously there’s a new roster, too. Who are some of the players you expect to play a key role for Austin in 2021?
Alex Ring is certainly the name that jumps out given his experience in MLS and his ability to run a midfield at a high level. However, as it is with American sports — fans want to see the stars and how the new Designated Players (Tomas Pochettino and Cecilio Dominguez) will perform. Will they bring the same value as a Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi? It doesn’t look like he’ll be available by Saturday’s game due to an injury, but I’m very intrigued by Austin’s first ever signing, Rodney Redes. He had a very strong pre-season, contributing on both sides of the ball and drawing lots of praise and call outs from Wolff. I think he might be one to keep an eye on this season.
3. Now, the money question. What are the expectations this season? Make it through the season (after last year, a worthy aim!)? Be competitive? Make the playoffs? Would be curious to get a sense of how they are projecting it heading into the season.
Barring any major injury, my expectations are that Austin will be competitive this season — meaning they’ll challenge for a playoff spot for most of the year. The team has said that they’ll look to fill that final DP spot this summer, and how they choose to use that will make a huge impact on how Austin will play out the year. Safely, I think finishing between 6th and 8th in the West will be reasonable and an achievement that everyone associated with the team will be content with.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.