Austin FC have endured arguably the toughest early-season schedule in MLS, with the expansion side navigating a rigorous stretch of eight straight road games while the finishing touches were put on Q2 Stadium, the league's latest soccer-specific stadium.
That marathon finally concluded after Saturday's 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City at Children's Mercy Park, which leaves Austin with a 2W-4L-2D record and eight points from those eight matches – all ahead of what promises to be a festive home opener against the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday (9 pm ET | UniMas, TUDN, Twitter).
"Certainly eight points from eight games on the road, we're fairly pleased with," Austin head coach Josh Wolff said on his video call after Saturday's match. "Again, averaging a point per game on the road doesn't seem amazing, but I know – I've been in this league a long time and that's worthy of something. It's certainly above average, I would say.
"We have a lot of work still to do, but we look forward to getting to Q2 Stadium next week where we get to play in front of our fans for the first time in an amazing venue. We'll recover from this and look forward to that."
Perhaps Austin's biggest revelation has been goalkeeper Brad Stuver, who continued his stellar run on Saturday with a handful of game-saving denials. While Wolff said that finding the scoresheet with more regularity remains their biggest concern, he praised the 30-year-old backstop after he posted a career-high nine saves.
"We've known Brad for a long time and clearly his performances in these first eight games speak for themselves," Wolff said. "There's a way that we want to play, which is utilizing the ball and keeping it and building from the back, and then there is his ability to make saves. I think, more than anything, that's where I've seen him grow and develop.
"He's certainly done a fair share of keeping us in [games], and for that we're quite grateful. A great person and a quiet leader. His performances certainly don't go unnoticed, he's been very solid for us."
With Austin turning toward a home match, Wolff said it provides relief on multiple fronts. They'll get to play before their own fans, along with simply having game-day routines in their own element.
"The excitement for me is, yes, going home and playing in front of our fans," Wolff said. "These guys have worked tirelessly since January and now you get an opportunity to come in front of our fans, you have the opportunity to spend these days around your family leading up to a game. And that's the exciting thing for the players and really exciting for the fans and the community that showed an unbelievable thirst and energy for this team, and I hope they see what we're trying to do."
Austin were rewarded against SKC when Cecilio Dominguez's opener broke a streak of 379 scoreless minutes across MLS games. They've also recorded two straight road draws after frustrating the league-leading Seattle Sounders in a 0-0 stalemate before the June international break.
Now, an ever-lasting opportunity awaits when Austin showcase Q2 Stadium before a full-capacity crowd in one week's time. And Wolff expects they'll be on the front foot.
"Going on the road and playing the way we play isn't easy," Wolff said. "Today was probably a little more of a defensive posture. But there were the moments that we were able to hurt the opponent, and that's what we try to do.
"But at home? There's going to be urgency, there's going to be excitement, there's going to be a real drive to go get goals and win games at home because we know that's where you try to grab as many points as you can. We look forward to that."