Austin FC turn "swarm of pressure" into course-correcting win


Tough losses have a way of revealing what teams are really made of.

Fortunately for Austin FC, Saturday night’s performance against CF Montréal revealed a team well-equipped to handle adversity.

And boy did they need that 1-0 win, which came courtesy of an 88th-minute goal from second-half substitute Maxi Urruti. Not only did it give the Verde & Black their first win of the 2023 MLS season, but it also helped turned the page on their Matchday 1 heartbreaking defeat at the hands of expansion side St. Louis CITY SC.

Add how it unfolded just three days before their Concacaf Champions League debut, and things are suddenly looking up again for the 2022 Western Conference finalist.

“You lose a game, it’s easy to get down,” head coach Josh Wolff said after the final whistle at Q2 Stadium. “But we have a process, we evaluate, we review, we refine and we come back to work and get better.”

ATX were noticeably better in defense, putting last week’s mistaken-prone setback behind them by keeping a clean sheet with an improvised center-back pairing of Leo Väisänen and Alexander Ring.

The latter replaced the injured Julio Cascante, who’s out indefinitely with a severe left adductor strain, putting in a solid 90 minutes despite his reputation – and preference – for playing as a central midfielder.

“He knows what his role is right now,” Wolff said of the 31-year-old Designated Player. “… Alex has started a boatload of games in MLS, he’s played abroad. He’s a warrior, as I’ve said. He’s a machine, and he’s a grinder.”

The third-year coach also was equally full of praise for Urruti, who found the game-winner less than 10 minutes after replacing Gyasi Zardes and with only seconds to go before full-time.

“You gotta get the goals," Wolff said. "Goals do change games. It took us a little longer than we would like.”

Austin were by far the more ambitious of the two sides in attack, controlling possession (55.4%) while registering 14 shots overall versus nine from Montréal.

Wolff conceded as the minutes wore on, nerves started becoming a factor.

“You could feel the tension in the air, you could feel how lopsided that field was for most of the second half," Wolff said. " … It was a swarm of pressure. It was good to finally see it break.

" … It was a relentless effort by all the guys."

Now the attention turns to CCL – specifically Tuesday night’s Round of 16 first-leg match against Violette AC of Haiti, to be played in the Dominican Republic.

While refusing to get into tactical specifics, Wolff implied he’d use an alternate formation at Cibao Stadium.

“We’ll have to rotate the squad a bit. We’re going down there, it’s turf, it will be warm and it’s a four, five-hour flight.”

That said, Wolff has no intention of taking it easy against a lesser-known opponent.

“[We'll] put the best team out there to get the result that we need on the road," he said, "knowing that we come back in a week here."