Austin FC sporting director and chief soccer officer Rodolfo Borrell has wasted little time in clarifying a lightning-rod topic among their fan base.
Josh Wolff, the Verde & Black’s only head coach since they joined the league three years ago, will remain at the helm in 2024.
This decision, formalized shortly after Austin were eliminated from Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs contention over the weekend, was explained further as Borrell held a press conference Tuesday morning.
“As you know, I landed three months ago or something like that,” said Borrell, who soon begins his first MLS offseason. “I've been assessing the whole situation and I understand results matter, but leaving results aside, what I can see is a very young coach, with room for improvement like any other coach in the league and in any other sport. Very dedicated, not only him but the coaching staff as well. Very dedicated, very knowledgeable and very much committed to the city and to the club.
“Believe me, I come from some of the best clubs in the world so I know what I'm talking about when referring to coaches. And I think we have a very good coach [in Wolff] and I think he's the right fit for us moving forward.”
A thoughtful decision
Borrell arrived in Austin with a glittering résumé, working as an assistant coach for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. The Spaniard has also worked extensively for Liverpool and FC Barcelona, offering a worldly perspective as he shapes an MLS club that went from expansion-year struggles (2021) to the Western Conference Final (2022) to another playoff-less season (2023).
Exercising patience and trust, Borrell maintained that Wolff is the man for the job.
“I need to look for not only the short-term or mid-view, but the long-term for the club,” said Borrell. “And I think the best decision is to stay with Josh and his coaching staff. We are all on the same page. Obviously in the end it's ultimately my decision, but it has to be supported by ownership as well and we are all on the same page.
“… I understand we are in the culture of winning and it doesn't matter how, it is the most important thing. But I need to try and put common sense to the whole thing. If I have to be driven by the public opinion, we are not going in the right way. What I am doing, believe me, is a thoughtful decision.”
Aside from retaining Wolff, Borrell is building out a new scouting and recruitment department consisting of five full-time scouts who are stationed throughout Europe and South America. Additionally, longtime executive Sean Rubio has joined Toronto FC as their technical director and Manuel Junco, who served as chief scout since 2020, has left the club.
The scouting piece is key, Borrell said, in acquiring players within the confines of an MLS roster.
“We will improve the team, but it will take time because compared to Europe you can say, listen, this hasn't worked and you can make as many changes as you want,” said Borrell. “Here, because of the salary cap rules and regulations and contracts and things that you have to respect et cetera et cetera, it's not that easy.
“… We will improve the roster as much as we can, but we will need some transfer windows – the winter, the summer, the winter, the summer – and progressively we will improve the team in every single transfer window. How much? As much as we can. So it's not about as much as we want, it's as much as we can.”
As Borrell executes his vision and retools the roster, he’s hopeful Austin can show a better version of themselves.
“In my first press conference I said that I think, and I still believe, the team overachieved last season,” Borrell said. “Potentially the team underachieved this season. That's the reality. I believe the team sits somewhere in the middle of both seasons, let's say – it would be fair to say that.”