Fresh from the Sunshine State, Austin FC trained Monday on the frozen tundra of St. David’s Performance Center.
After practice, head coach Josh Wolff looked refreshed, dare we say radiant, despite the frigid temps battering ATX. What we thought would be a hasty speech, as he dashed to the nearest source of warmth indoors, turned into a wide-ranging convo that touched on topics including preseason progress, new signings, old lessons learned, and life after Claudio Reyna.
Here are highlights from head coach Josh Wolff’s media availability on Monday, Jan. 30.
How it feels to be back in Austin
“We come right back to it today. There’s an eagerness, an excitement. A lot of energy out there. They’re executing some of the ideas we worked on in Florida.”
Takeaways from their first-ever preseason in Florida
“From a physical standpoint, to the introduction of our ideas, to the introduction of new players, we were really pleased with the 12 days there.” Digging a little deeper about their time in Florida, Wolff got real about the rust some players showed, “I think the tempo was good. It could be better. I think the fitness for some guys came in under where they needed to be. We’re utilizing preseason more to emphasize our ideas and game model. Preseason is not a time to get fit. It’s time to get match fit. So there are a couple players that came in unfit, unfortunately. We had some injuries due in part to that. We got a lot of our guys back today, which is good.”
So, did new center back Leo Vaisanen play in Florida?
“Leo got involved late down there, so we didn’t want to risk him in any of the games.” Talking more about his center back dilemma in Florida, Wolff went on to say, “We were a little short on center backs in our last game against Cincinnati—Jhohan Romaña had a calf injury.” The coach alluded to his earlier comments about some players not being fit.
Evolution seems like a key theme in Year 3
“The success of last year gave us validation. But what it also does is it puts a big marker on your back to perform. I know in this business, and our players know in this business, it’s not what have you done for me; it’s what are you going to do for me. So we are in the process of giving more information to guys…bringing on new players. It’s about what can we go out and do in year three.”
Is Austin changing its style of play in 2023?
Elaborating on Sebastian Driussi’s earlier comment to the media on Monday about the team working on changing their style of play, Wolff had this to say, “It’s more structures. Again for us, we had what we did last year. There’s comfort and familiarity for our guys in that. I think it’s important to keep layering in some information. What I learned in Year One was that a lot of information can almost drown players. So we backed off in Year Two and became pretty precise about what we wanted. Now in Year Three, we want to add on to what happened in Year One and Year Two, without suffocating or drowning the players.”
Without getting too detailed, Wolff explained a little more about what that might look like on the pitch, “We’re putting more emphasis on our attacking and trying a little bit of these rearrangements that we’re trying to create to have a little more flexibility and versatility in attack. We’ve got to continue to evolve, continue to be brave, continue to be strong on the ball, but also be a team that can win games and be defensive.”
What changes for Josh Wolff after Claudio Reyna’s exit as Sporting Director?
Switching gears off the field, Josh Wolff was asked about changes to his job after Claudio Reyna’s resignation from the Sporting Director role following the recent U.S. Soccer scandal. “It changes in a few ways, but not a ton. We have a great staff—a great leadership team inside this building. Andrew DiLallo, Sean Rubio, myself, and Dave Tenney, will have a few more roles and responsibilities. There’s so much enjoyment coming to work here and for this organization. You can see it in our community. Our community embraced us from Day One. That drives us every day, so we keep moving forward.”
As far as his personal relationship with Claudio Reyna, Wolff said, “I’ve been friends with Claudio for a long, long time and I expect that to stay the same. We all respect Claudio’s decision.”
What’s on the preseason calendar next for Austin FC?
“We’ll have the [player’s] families out for the game this weekend when we play El Paso.”
If you purchase through our links, we earn a commission that will help support our content.
Bits & Bobs
Former Seattle Sounders forward Will Bruin was spotted by Capital City Soccer on trial with Austin FC. Bruin is a free agent after his contract was not exercised at the end of the 2022 season.