As Austin FC prepare for 2021, head coach Josh Wolff refines play style, transfer targets

Claudio Reyna and Josh Wolff at Austin FC anniversary event

NEW YORK — After working under US men's national team head coach Gregg Berhalter at both the national stage and with Columbus Crew SC from 2014-19, Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff does expect to see some similarities between his expansion side and Berhalter's sides.

But Wolff isn't a facsimile of Berhalter and his Austin FC teams won't simply be a duplicate of his previous stops. 

“The fact that I come from a culture with Gregg, yeah, a lot of that will be reflected," Wolff said at MLS media day. "But I’ll have my own players, my own ways and face my own challenges. I think the six or seven years I’ve been an assistant has prepared me to come up with some of the solutions. I appreciate the way we tried to build things with Columbus and the national team, it’ll be good."

Wolff was appointed Austin FC head coach last July, but spent the remainder of 2019 staying on as an assistant coach with Berhalter and the USMNT. A former national team striker and MLS star, Wolff has been around the league since 1998 and is embarking on his first head coaching gig. 

“The way the US national team is playing today, the way that we played in Columbus, those are things that are philosophical," Wolff added. "You want to be offensive-minded, you want to have organization, be entertaining, exciting and score goals. I do believe in preparation and the idea of being comfortable with the ball, utilizing space and positions."

With the clock ticking on Austin's entrance to MLS, as they'll play their inaugural match in about a year, Wolff and sporting director Claudio Reyna can focus on identifying targets and starting to acquire their first senior players. Wolff says he's spending most of his time these days scouting. 

“I was in Colombia for the U-23 CONMEBOL tournament, I’ll be part of watching the Concacaf (Olympic) qualifying as well," Wolff said. "Looking for young players, international players and obviously very mindful as MLS starts, which players will be available next year.”

Nashville SC initially acquired Daniel Rios on an MLS contract in November of 2018 ahead of their MLS debut this weekend, while Inter Miami acquired Matias Pellegrini and Julian Carranza on July 26 of this summer. At the moment, Austin are between those two teams by way of announcing their first player. 

The type of player Wolff and Co. are targeting will fit into that possession-based ethos that the club hope to instill.  Reyna was the architect of NYCFC, who are one of the leading MLS clubs in that mold.

“Claudio and I have talked a lot about what we envision the game to be, our minds look at the game in a similar way," Wolff said. "Flexibility, offensive and balance. ... He comes from an environment where playing attack-minded, possession soccer was important. That’s reflective of what we’re going to try and build in Austin. It’s easier said than done. We want to have our way of playing, it’s important it’s reflected in the coaches we have, the philosophy we drive home and the players we bring in."

That's the key task Wolff is focused on at the moment. 

“The process of decision making now comes down to which players to sign in the coming months," Wolff said. "That’s the big project that lies ahead, ownership has given us a good picture as to what that’s going to look like and what resources will be available.”