MLS Team Guide: Austin FC
Ahead of the 2021 MLS season, Richard Fleming introduces us to the teams set to face the Colorado Rapids. Below, find details about newcomers Austin FC. They will be the third team from the state of Texas, and will face the Rapids in the home opener at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park on April 24.
First season in MLS: 2021
Stadium: Q2 Stadium, Austin, Texas
Head Coach: Josh Wolff (appointed, November 2019)
History with the Rapids
When Austin FC visits DICK’S Sporting Goods Park on April 24, one of the league’s original franchises will tackle the 27th club in Major League Soccer.
Head-to-head record: 0-0-0
Last meeting: N/A
Austin, under the leadership of former Columbus Crew owner, Anthony Precourt, were officially announced as an expansion club in January 2019. Precourt had initially threatened to move Columbus Crew to Austin. The franchise rights to Columbus were bought from Precourt, paving the way for Austin to be handed an MLS franchise in its own right.
Josh Wolff, alongside Sporting Director, Claudio Reyna, have rapidly assembled a squad for their first season in Major League Soccer. Two vastly experienced men, the pair have brought in players with lots of league miles on the clock, including former Sporting Kansas City captain, Matt Besler.
Last December, during the half-day trade window, they were among the busiest, bringing in Ben Sweat (Inter Miami CF), Ulises Segura (D.C. United), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Julio Cascante (Portland Timbers), and Jon Gallagher (Atlanta United).
Two days later, in the Expansion Draft, Danny Hoesen (San Jose Earthquakes), Jared Stroud (NYRB), Brady Scott (Nashville SC), and Joe Corona (LA Galaxy) were selected, although the latter would eventually land in Houston.
By the end of December, the third team in Texas had added Alex Ring (NYCFC), Hector Jimenez (Columbus Crew), Jhohan Romana (Club Guarani - Paraguay), Andrew Tarbell (Columbus Crew), Brad Stuver (NYCFC).
The steady stream of players continued into 2021. The month of January saw the arrival of free agent Diego Fagundez, plus SKC veteran Matt Besler, and much-traveled winger Kekuta Manneh.
Austin’s roster grew further in February. Aaron Schoenfeld was signed as a free agent, via Minnesota. Attacking midfielder Tomas Pochettino joined from Argentina's Atletico Talleres as their second Designated Player, while draft pick Freddy Kleemann - a six-foot-four central defender – will begin his pro career in Austin out of the University of Washington.
March was a little quieter. Left-sided defender Žan Kolmanič joined on loan, with a purchase option, from Slovenian club NK Maribor. He was a league champion while with Maribor and has represented Slovenia at U21 level. Midfielder Sebastian Berhalter also arrived on loan, from Columbus Crew. Austin have the option to trade for Berhalter at the end of the season. The son of the national team head coach, Berhalter made nine appearances for Columbus last season.
Players To Watch
Danny Hoesen, Kekuta Manneh, Tomas Pochettino, Alex Ring
In: See above
Out: Kamal Miller
Meetings in 2021:
April 24 (home)
July 31 (away)
September 29 (home)
Click HERE for the full Rapids schedule.
Did You Know?
Austin has a history with soccer. The Austin Aztex played there until 2008, relocating to Orlando to become Orlando City. Among their former players is ex-Rapids midfielder, Ciaran O'Brien.
The league’s newest club will have a touch of Hollywood in co-owner Matthew McConaughey. According to the club’s website, Academy Award winner McConaughey will also have the title of ‘Minister of Culture (MOC)’.
Claudio Reyna is the club’s Sporting Director. He held a similar role at NYCFC for four years. Reyna attended the same prep school as Gregg Berhalter, played professionally in Europe and the United States, captained the USA at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and is the father of up-and-coming young star Giovanni Reyna.
Austin FC will play the first seven games of the season away from home, as their new stadium is being completed. Q2 Stadium will host its first MLS game on June 19, against San Jose Earthquakes.
Josh Wolff’s team begin life in MLS on April 17 at Banc of California Stadium, the home of LAFC.