The fans of Major League Soccer’s newest club have packed Q2 Stadium since its opening, consistently giving Austin FC one of the league’s best atmospheres each and every home game.
The expansion side’s play, though, has struggled to match those lofty standards. A 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps Wednesday night was the club’s third straight defeat and sixth in their last seven games. At their sparking new home stadium, Austin FC have won just twice in eight matches.
“We’re all open to criticism right now and the team’s not performing well enough and that’s my job, the staff's job to get the best out of them and it's been disappointing for all of us,” coach Josh Wolff said after the match. “I think we’re all frustrated and disappointed for the fans me, for them more than anything. They pour their heart and soul into every one of these games.”
Wolff knows it's always been difficult for expansion teams in MLS. The struggles experienced by clubs in their first season far outweigh the successes.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “If it was easy, there would be 27 fantastic teams that win every week, but this game is challenging. And we’re getting challenged right now. That’s where we’re at.”
Wolff said what was particularly alarming was how his team ran out of gas in the second half against the Whitecaps.
“Clearly today, I think there was a physical effect because I’ve never seen our team really hit the wall like they hit the wall today,” Wolff said. “I think physically and emotionally they hit the wall. Putting together 90 minutes requires investment physically and mentally and emotionally. We’re showing a little bit of lack of maturation in that. We have enough quality and leaders on the field, but it takes full commitment from everybody.”
Wolff said that was why he took Designated Player Cecilio Dominguez off Wednesday night after 30 minutes.
“Maybe it’s just a challenging nature of our league and the newness of certainly Austin, the heat, the warmth, training in this environment, playing in this environment,” Wolff said. “I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s noticeably been off for him and we certainly need to talk to him about everything from diet to nutrition to rest because we need him to perform at a high level and he knows he was off tonight.”
Can Austin climb out of this hole? Veteran goalkeeper Brad Stuver believes there’s enough quality in the locker room to turn things around, but they need to start by improving on a league-worst 14 goals scored.
“This is by no means a bad team,” Stuver said. “This team is talented, we have the pieces, we have the system, we have everything we need to be a successful team. We’re in a rough moment. We’re struggling to score goals consistently in matches.”