They still haven’t completed their roster. But Austin FC could start their 2021 season now and still show a competitive edge against MLS opponents.
Austin FC will wait until April to play the team’s first MLS game. While awaiting several final roster additions, the team looks competitive right now for the kinds of formations that head coach Josh Wolff will call.
Wolff is adamant that his Austin lineups won’t appear as facsimiles of his previous coaching experiences at Columbus Crew SC and the U.S. Men’s National Team. At the same time, he acknowledges that his decisions will reflect the culture he’s acquired, first as a player and lately as an assistant coach.
As he describes his gameplan, it’s offensive-minded, utilizing space and positions, then scoring goals.
So look for Wolff’s formation choices to appear fluid according to scouting reports on opponents. Yet they’ll utilize personnel frequently in 4-3-3 schemes, alternating with the 4-2-3-1.
At this posting, he’s got 21 players, including three goalkeepers, ready for the call. Wolff has done some of his own scouting work to pick them, seeking possession-based personnel. And to make sure he’s got enough choices, he and sporting director Claudio Reyna have the next two players all but signed.
They set their sights on defender Zan Kolmanic from NK Maribor in Slovenia. It at first sounds risky. They’re pursuing a 20-year-old, left-footed left-back that few, if anyone, in North America has seen.
But understand that MLS scouts in general – and Austin FC’s hunters specifically, – don’t heavily key in on height, weight, and speed of 40-yard dash like American rules football scouts.
They have a broad array of metrics to weigh. Kolmanic scores well on many of them. That’s good because the team’s primary option at left-back is Ben Sweat. He might need a break at some point.
NK Maribor is the best in Slovenia this season. Kolmanic saw action in 44 games, including the Europa League qualifiers. Scouting reports praise his decisions, determination, acceleration, and pace. He’s a skillful tackler. If needed, he has experience at left midfield.
The second prospect is not the one GQ magazine just called the best-ever male soccer player from the U.S. That one is Chelsea FC midfielder Christian Pulisic. The one now getting a pre-season trial at Austin FC is his cousin, Will.
This Pulisic started 66 games at Duke before entering the 2021 MLS Superdraft. He wasn’t one of the six goalkeepers picked.
Among Austin’s three goalkeepers, two have at least five years MLS experience. He will send neither Andrew Tarbell nor Brad Stuver to the bench, although Pulisic got selected as All-ACC twice.
But he has a shot at getting goalkeeper coach Preston Burpo to scratch his head over U.S. youth international Brady Scott.
Whether these latest signings get done, get ready for Austin FC.