Austin FC still finding their feet in MLS

Soccer fans in Texas celebrated a third team to follow in the Major League Soccer competition when Austin FC were added to the competition in 2021. The team was founded in 2018 and immediately set about fighting for their spot at the top table of soccer in the US. They now enjoy membership of the Western Conference.

Having seen the team cover a lot of ground in their first two years in existence, fans had hoped the Austin fairytale would continue once they had arrived in MLS. Supporters of the club playing out of the Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas dreamt of seeing Josh Wolff’s men hit the ground running. Austin had been written off by the Texas sports betting sites for glory but supporters kept the faith.

The reality hits home

That optimism was to prove short-lived as the reality of competing for points and places in the Western Conference soon began to bite hard. They won just two of their first nine matches, drawing three and losing four. Anyone connected to Austin FC who held hopes of seeing the club takeover MLS in their first season were forced to quickly re-evaluate. Success doesn’t come for free in Major League Soccer. It must be earned through hard work and experience. Just ask star of European soccer David Beckham over at Inter Miami.

Nine points gained from their first nine games left Austin FC toiling in the division, nearer the bottom of the league than the top. Their tally left them a dozen points off the pace set by leaders Seattle Sounders and trailing LA Galaxy in fourth by six points. Bottom club FC Dallas were breathing down their necks, however, collecting seven points from the opening nine games of the campaign.

Looking at the stats in a bit more detail, we see Austin scored just six goals in their first nine games but conceded nine in the same period. The six goals managed made them the competition’s lowest scorers which came as a surprise to all with an interest in MLS. When starting the season it was hoped Austin would prove to be an entertaining addition to the MLS but, so far, that hasn’t been the case. The nine goals conceded is fewer than Sporting Kansas who are second in the league and hot on the heels of the leaders.

Focus in next season

When a team has one of the best defensive records in MLS but one of the poorest scoring runs it’s obvious what the coaching staff have to work on. There is still plenty of football to be played in this campaign and those staying loyal to Austin FC will believe they remain in the hunt for a top-four finish. Most will already be looking ahead to next season and the changes they must make to build on their debut campaign.

Austin’s problems were never clearer than when drawing at home to the San Jose Earthquakes on June 20. That was the club’s third level finish on the bounce. It could be hyped as a three-game unbeaten run, of course, but that won’t wash with most fans. On their debut season, Austin aren’t just battling against opponents for points, they are trying to drum up interest in the team. Sports fans in the US aren’t big fans of drawn matches and they certainly aren’t big fans of low-scoring drawn matches.

While soccer fans in Europe following the pulsating Euro 2020 competition enjoyed Switzerland’s 3-1 win over Turkey and Pessina’s winning goal for Italy against Wales, supporters of Austin FC sat through their team’s 0-0 draw with Earthquakes. Another match that gave them very little to get excited about.

The entertainment business

Soccer is a sport that continues to grow in the United States but, like any other sport, the players are involved in the entertainment business. They are paid, and handsomely, to put on a show for their viewers. 90 minutes without a goal is a big ask even for the most loyal of soccer fans.

For a target audience still getting to grips with the team and the game, it doesn’t do much to help the cause. Club owners Two Oak Ventures and chairman Anthony Precourt now know they must dig deep and invest in the playing squad. They require scorers who will entice fans through the gates.

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