Austin FC settle into new facility, prepare for Copita Cup
Q2 Stadium wasn’t the only construction project for Austin FC entering its first year in Major League Soccer. The club was also building the St. David’s Performance Center in north Austin. The training facility opened this week with the club moving its operations from St. Edward’s University. The new training facility covers 23 acres and will also be the base of operations for the youth academy.
“The fields are great. The facilities are fantastic,” head coach Josh Wolff said in his weekly press conference via Zoom. “It’s a real pickup for the guys. They’ve been waiting for this moment.”
The move coincides with a revamping of energy for Austin FC. The club performed well in two closed-door scrimmages against sides from the United Soccer League. The level of competition steps up as the opener on April 17 against LAFC approaches.
Austin FC is set to compete in the first edition of La Copita, a preseason tournament involving Texas squads. The first match is at the newly opened training facility against the Houston Dynamo. Austin FC travels to FC Dallas on April 7 before returning back home for a match against USL side San Antonio FC on April 10. The matches against the Dynamo and FC Dallas are to be livestreamed via the newly announced Austin FC app. No fans or media are allowed at the home games at the St. David’s Performance Center due to MLS COVID-19 protocols.
“The opponents pick up with Houston and Dallas, two good teams that are our rivals,” Wolff said. “There will be another level of intensity even though it is preseason, and it gives us an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with some of the opponents we’ll see in the season.”
Preseason tournament a chance to reassess
Despite facing clubs that Austin FC will play three times during the regular season, Wolff’s focus is squarely on his own squad.
“This (tournament) gives us a great opportunity to see where we’re at and the things that we need to continue to work on,” Wolff said. “It is about us and what we’re able to do with the offensive ideas and with our defensive structure.”
Wolff is in his first year as a head coach. He was able to formulate a plan for his methods as a player and an assistant coach. So far, Wolff’s strengths appear to be as a teacher. Multiple players painted Wolff as detail-oriented and thorough in his tactical awareness. He believes it is the challenge of a coach to articulate lessons and tactics in a clear, simple way. That clarity is especially helpful when putting together a roster built from scratch in the middle of a pandemic.
“The players all come from different teams and different regions of the country and in the world. And since we want to play in a particular way, for us as coaches we’re trying to be very specific and defined about what that looks like,” Wolff said. “We have clear ideas and principles that we want to operate by when we have the ball, and likewise when we don’t.”
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The preseason is a grind. Most of the roster arrived in Austin in mid-January to start unofficial workouts. Voluntary team activities began March 1 with the preseason officially kicking off March 8. Since then, this group has practiced for three full weeks and played in two scrimmages. The season is still nearly three weeks away and four scrimmages remain before the trip to Los Angeles.
Yet, the club remains enthusiastic. The newness of the team and the excitement surrounding the expansion franchise has propelled the players through the normal toil of preseason training, according to Wolff.
“We’re a completely new organization and new outfit so guys come here with a different level of energy and excitement,” Wolff said. “Guys are really locked in and very excited about what lies ahead at the start of the season.”