Austin FC fans have experienced a wave of emotions over the past few days.
On Tuesday evening, Austin received a rude welcome to the Concacaf Champions League, traveling to the Dominican Republic and absorbing a shock 3-0 defeat against Haitian side Violette AC in their Round-of-16 series first leg. It was far from an ideal result after the Verde & Black finished fourth in the Supporters' Shield standings in 2022 and came a win away from reaching MLS Cup in their sophomore season.
Before focusing on erasing the deficit in Tuesday's return leg at Q2 Stadium, Josh Wolff's team enjoyed a much more positive outing in league play at Real Salt Lake on Saturday night – a rematch of last year's Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Round One matchup that saw ATX advance on penalties.
"I think the guys did a real good job settling into the game, getting a little control of the game," Austin's head coach said after a 2-1 win at America First Field. "I think it was a deserved three points [and] an incredibly strong performance from a lot of guys today. … It's an extremely good win."
Austin benefited from a pair of AT&T 5G Goal of the Matchday candidates: first by Jon Gallagher in the ninth minute and later from Owen Wolff in the 33rd minute, the eventual match-winner that broke a 1-1 deadlock. Both long-range blasts were complete stunners.
Wolff's goal, the first of his professional career, obviously has deep personal significance, as the father and son are now the eighth such goalscoring duo in league history. For the elder Wolff's part, he showed more than a hint of fatherly pride while praising the 18-year-old's continued development.
"I'm really proud of Owen for his first goal, but for the overall performance tonight, and the willingness and commitment to get better," he said. "He's a young player that has, I think, a very high ceiling, and we've got to keep pushing and nurturing that."
Austin's short-term aim is now climbing out of a three-goal hole and securing passage to the CCL quarterfinals, with Wolff expressing confidence that Saturday's result at RSL would propel his team to do just that.
"We'll continue to define our season and who we are by our performances," he said. "Consistency is what drives that message home, not only to ourselves and our fans and the league, but to everyone that's in MLS. ... We've put together good performances in our first three regular-season games, and we've got to carry that over to this next game."
HIGHLIGHTS: Real Salt Lake vs. Austin FC | March 11, 2023