In addition to placing the expansion side atop the Copa Tejas standings — for the moment, at least — it was the kind of win that Austin needed to right themselves after a three-game losing streak that sent them to the bottom of the Western Conference.
"It would be arrogant to say we thought we were going to win the game, but we feel good about each game we're going into," Wolff said. "We know what the opponent was going to be about. We knew it was a derby. Intensity, morale, mentality were things we talked about the last two days. These guys have great mentality. They come in, they play, we compete, and we haven't gotten the results we wanted. But tonight, I think our urgency to play, and certainly do the things we want to do, that has been a staple for us so far, were on display."
Wolff has emphasized possession and Austin FC adhered to that philosophy by dominating possession by a 2-1 margin, with 550 total passes to 267 for Houston. But it was also purposeful possession, a welcome change from recent matches in which Austin had most of the possession but couldn't produce goals.
Of course, Austin found more space than they might have otherwise in the contest, once Darwin Ceren exited the match just before the midway point of the first half with a 20th-minute red card.
"Obviously, they were down a guy, which makes it a little easier on us, but we've still gotta go do the business," added Wolff.
Still, Wolff was measured about the win, noting that the two goals the Dynamo found — both while reduced to 10 players — were concerning, and something they'd review in preparation for Saturday's matchup against an FC Dallas side that's shown they can score. FCD homegrown forward Ricardo Pepi was named as the only Texas representative on this year's MLS All-Star team.
"I wouldn't say we knew we had it until the final whistle, because we made it a lot more interesting than we ever really needed to," Wolff said. "That's unfortunate, but we'll learn from it. It forced us to grind a little bit, and stress a little bit, and those are things that we need to learn to deal with."
Wolff said he was thrilled to see midfielder Tomas Pochettino get his first goal — closely followed by his second — after 13 prior starts without the Designated Player finding the back of the net.
"We're working on him tirelessly about being more present in the pocket, turning the pockets," Wolff said. "He likes to pull out wide, that's also something we've incorporated into our game model just to benefit him as well ... we want those overloads in the channels and he can help give us them. It's just balancing responsibility with the ball and playing with risk. You want players like him to have a level of freedom, but it's still got to fit into the context of how we play. There's still a responsibility and he's growing into that. I think tonight was it was a bit better for him and, again, I think everyone was pretty pleased,
He added that veteran center back Matt Besler "challenged" Pochettino this week in team meetings, and "he responded really well."
Further good news is on the way for Austin. Wolff said that new Designated Player signing Sebastian Driussi, who won't even be practicing with the team until Thursday, is already making an impression on his new teammates. The Argentine attacker could make his debut in the Texas derby match against FC Dallas on Saturday, which could help Austin FC build on the momentum that may be churning into place.
"I think Driussi being present and guys being able to see him and talk to him ... he's a very charismatic guy, very professional," Wolff observed. "We talked about how this group is going to continue to get better, and continue to get healthy, there's gonna be competition, there are going to be spots on the field that you know are going to become more challenging for selection, and I think that's a positive."
While some Austin players have talked after recent matches about being frustrated and angry with not getting results, Wolff said that preparation for the Houston match wasn't markedly different — just the end product was.
"I think we reviewed the last game, talked about things that we've got to get better on, understood what Houston was going to look like, but again, we continue to focus on ourselves, on the little things that we need to continue to get better," Wolff said. "I mean, it's not hard to talk about what lacking for us: It's goals."