Consider US men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter an admirer of Austin FC’s year-two turnaround under head coach Josh Wolff, his former assistant at the international level and with the Columbus Crew.
As an expansion team in 2021, the Verde & Black finished second from bottom in the Western Conference standings. Now in 2022, they’re second in the West and could feasibly double their points haul (31) from a year ago, sitting on 45 with 10 regular-season games remaining.
“I think they're kicking ass, man. They've been great,” Berhalter told Extratime’s Andrew Wiebe at MLS All-Star Week presented by Target.
Austin’s leadership proved patient with Wolff, whose team plays a 4-3-3 system that strongly resembles how Berhalter’s World Cup-bound USMNT operates.
There were plenty of lumps a year ago, but signs of a quality team were evident, one that boasts the league’s best road record (8W-3L-2D) and has made Q2 Stadium into an intimidating atmosphere.
“Josh’s quality as a head coach has always been there,” Berhalter said. “He’s a top coach in my opinion. The way he sees the game, the way he analyzes the game, tactically I think he’s one of the best.”
It’s not just team posture and approach, Berhalter stressed. He noted the roster’s clear talent, which is highlighted by midfielder Sebastian Driussi’s Landon Donovan MLS MVP-caliber season and a resurgent year from winger Diego Fagundez.
Some other key pieces for ATX are goalkeeper Brad Stuver, center back Ruben Gabrielsen and central midfielder Alex Ring. The club also signed a DP winger during the summer transfer window, landing Emiliano Rigoni from Brazil’s Sao Paulo, the latest sign of reinforcements that began in the offseason.
“Now he has quality also,” Berhalter said. “When you see some of the players he has on the field, they’re special players and he has them working at a high level.”
Austin return to action in Week 25 when hosting struggling Sporting Kansas City (9 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).