Austin FC: Previewing Season Opener Against LAFC

May 10, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew SC assistant coach Josh Wolff directs his team against Toronto FC at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
May 10, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew SC assistant coach Josh Wolff directs his team against Toronto FC at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2021 MLS season is starting and it’s hard to believe that Austin’s soccer dreams are finally a reality. No longer will the University of Texas have a sports viewing stranglehold in one of the most unique towns in America. For the first time ever, locals will be able to cheer on a professional sports team with Austin FC.

The “Verde & Black” will play its season opener on April 17th in Los Angeles against city dwellers LAFC. Austin will hope to measure up against their heavily favoured opponent.

Like Austin FC, the Los Angeles Football Club is a newly formed soccer club that has only begun playing since 2018.  In 2019, the club went on a dominant run which resulted in them capturing the Supporters Shield and first place overall in the standings. Going into their fourth year, the club is still competitive and will be challenging for MLS Cup.

With all this immediate success, LAFC have demonstrated that it doesn’t take long to build a competitive roster in Major League Soccer. In many ways they represent the gold standard for expansion franchises like Austin.

Unlike other clubs, comparisons can already be made between the two. Tactically, both teams line up in 4-3-3 formations and emphasize playing with possession. Both coaches also have a shared history – Austin’s Josh Wolff played for Bob Bradley with the Chicago Fire and USMNT.

Examining these teams further, we can draw more parallels that are sure to make headlines going into Saturday’s match.

Hollywood Ownership

Over the last few months, minority owner and actor Matthew McConaughey has been on a publicity tour promoting his club Austin FC. Despite his excitement, he‘s not the only ‘green screen’ owner who has injected energy into Major League Soccer. Will Ferrell is also a partial owner in LAFC and has used his fame to promote his club. Heading into Saturday, the cameras should definitely be focused on the interactions between these two Hollywood A-listers.

Carlos Vela’s Return – Sizing up new DPs

A major reason for LAFC’s recent dip in the standings was because they were without Carlos Vela’s services for much of last season. The former MLS MVP suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain during the MLS is back tournament and was limited to 7 games on the year. As one of the best players in the league, Vela will look to help LAFC win its first ever MLS Cup.

Unlike LAFC, we still don’t know  Austin FC’s clear and obvious superstar. The team has brought in two DPs as potential choices: Tomas Pochettino – who plays as a creative ten, and Cecilio Dominguez – a pacey winger with striking ability. Though still early, keep an eye on which of the two will try to establish a Carlos Vela-like presence for Austin.

Striker Situation

As I had written earlier this year, a major question mark for Austin FC entering the season was the striker position. Danny Hoesen is the likely starter, and even though management has invested a lot of confidence in the Dutchman – he has not proven his worth in recent years.

Like Austin, LAFC are not established up top and have yet to name a definitive starter. After losing Bradley Wright Phillips to Columbus, they will look to Corey Baird or Danny Musovski to potentially fill that void. Understandably, both teams place a heavier emphasis on creating chances with their wingers and midfielders, regardless, it still should be a situation to monitor,