Austin FC, after a thrilling 2-2 comeback draw vs. FC Dallas at Q2 Stadium on Saturday night, remain right in the Supporters' Shield mix, sitting two points behind league-leading LAFC before MLS Week 16 comes to a close.

That leaves plenty for the second-year club to feel pleased about, but they'll also be kicking themselves at missed opportunities that have kept them from pulling ahead – or moving level – in the overall league table.

They've drawn three times at Q2 Stadium and once on the road, both clawing back points behind yet another sold-out crowd and/or seeing a lead slip away. Aside from their four losses, close opportunities to gain ground in the Supporters' Shield race have shifted into one-point results:

  1. Austin 1, Seattle 1 (March 20) – They came back from behind against a rotated Seattle Sounders side deep in the midst of their historic Concacaf Champions League-winning run.
  2. San Jose 2, Austin 2 (April 2) – They conceded twice in two minutes against the San Jose Earthquakes, watching a two-goal road lead slip away.
  3. Austin 2, Orlando 2 (May 22) – It took a 95th-minute equalizer to salvage a draw against Orlando City SC, who played with nine men for the final 20-plus minutes of the contest.
  4. Austin 2, Dallas 2 (June 25) – ATX rallied to earn their first point against Texas rival FC Dallas after falling into a two-goal hole.

Head coach Josh Wolff knows how thin the margins are while pursuing an LAFC team that'll soon add legendary Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini and is reportedly finalizing a deal for ex-Real Madrid star Gareth Bale. They'd join former Landon Donovan MLS MVP Carlos Vela, should the Mexican superstar formally re-sign.

With 28 points from 16 matches (8W-4L-4D record), they're keeping the Black & Gold within touching distance as the season's midway point nears. And it comes in sharp contrast to the club's 2021 expansion venture, when they finished second-from-bottom in the Western Conference table. Remarkable progress is clear to see.

"We're almost at the halfway point, but we're doing some things well," Wolff said. "We would have liked to get all three points tonight, but it says a lot about where we're at."

"There's a belief and a commitment to what we've been doing and talking about," Wolff later added. "When tough moments come, they know exactly what's needed. Tucking and running is not an option. We find ways to find solutions."

Despite the draws, Austin have displayed a consistent never-say-die attitude in Year Two. They've found themselves behind by two goals on four occasions this season – just one of those has ended in a loss.

After being down 2-0 against high-flying FC Dallas, the comeback via goals from Danny Hoesen and Sebastian Driussi was a tidy summary of Austin's season: Imperfect and messy at times, but also full of excitement, grit and creativity in the final third. Growing pains and all, there's something special growing in the Texas capital.

"We gave them two goals," Wolff said. "Against good teams, when you give those opportunities, they're going to take them. But the steel and the desire that we showed was awesome. It was awesome."

The Verde may not have the same glitz and glam as their Hollywood counterpart, but what they're building in Texas may prove to be just as special. It's also important not to discount those like Real Salt Lake and New York City FC, who remain in the early Shield race as well.

There have been bumps in the road, and like any team, they're an unfinished product. But the future in Austin is bright.

"We're not where we want to be or expect to be at the end of the year," said Wolff with a grin. "But we sure as hell like where we're going."