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Josh Wolff welcomed and quizzed by Austin FC fans

Tuesday was a day of answers from the Austin FC front office, in announcing a new head coach more than 18 months before the team will begin MLS play. And then, it was a day of questions, as new head coach Josh Wolff was unveiled at a press conference, participated in a league-wide conference call, did one-on-one interviews with Austin journalists, and finally, went to a massive bar in Austin’s West Sixth district to field questions from fans happy to have an actual, tangible person attached to the club. 

In a nearly 45-minute session, fans asked Wolff questions that many of the journalists had — about potential players, style of play, and preparation for the upcoming 2021 season. Austin FC CEO Anthony Precourt and president Andy Loughnane also joined Wolff on stage, fielding questions about the team’s future — including updates on tickets for a still-to-be-built stadium. 

One topic immediately visited, and touched on throughout the evening, was the style of play that the team will adopt under Wolff. He acknowledged some similarities between his approach and Gregg Berhalter’s approach — as Wolff’s been Berhalter’s assistant with both Columbus Crew SC and the U.S. Men’s National Team — but was also clear to articulate what he saw as his own hallmarks. In particular, he mentioned wanting players to be flexible within a structured set-up. 

“I want our players to have an understanding of what the system looks like and their roles within the system,” Wolff said. “And then, as they’re comfortable, and they have an idea of what my expectations are, and the staff’s expectations are, they’ll have more flexibility within the structure. We don’t want it to be stagnant. We want to be dynamic, we want to be vertical … we want to be very goal-orientated. And that’s what we’re going to push as a concept.” 

Later in the session, he said he’d draw from past experiences in his 14-year playing career as well as his assistant coaching tenure to guide the team. 

“I want to utilize every resource, all my experiences that I had as a player as an assistant coach, to help formulate those ideas as a coach,” he observed. “Obviously, as a player and forward, you live in the world of scoring goals. As a coach, I want our team to be about scoring goals, and I think our game model and style of play will reflect that We will bring in players that support that idea. And we’ll have a game model and consolidate that, to be something you’re proud of. That’s ambitious, that’s bold, that’s direct, has tempo, and is dynamic. It also has structure and organization has flexibility. What I don’t want is chaos. I want control. I want control of the game.” He went on to note that this philosophy would result in an exciting brand of soccer worthy of the energy that he expects fans to bring to each match. 

He also acknowledged the importance of fans, perhaps playing to the audience, by noting that as a player, whenever he scored a goal, he’d seek to make fans part of the experience. “When I wanted to celebrate,” he recalled, “I went to the fans, I went to the supporters’ sections, I was jumping into those fans. And that’s what I want our guys to be about. It’s about you. This doesn’t exist without you.” 

In the short term, Wolff will continue national team duties — including preparations for a Gold Cup final rematch against Mexico in September and upcoming Concacaf Nations League matches — while making initial preparations for transitioning to Austin FC. Precourt made it clear that even as the team is looking for a general manager to work in tandem with Wolff, they’re moving toward player acquisition as a top priority for 2020. 

“We can field our Discovery List on January 1, 2020,” Precourt said, referring to the league mechanism allowing teams to claim players 27 or younger who are not on the MLS Allocation List or in the MLS SuperDraft pipeline. “So, our scouting, and having players identified between now and December 31, is going to be critical.”

Precourt also hinted that the process to bring in Designated Players is already underway, noting, “Sometimes those conversations can take a year to get them bought in on the club’s philosophy, obviously understanding who their coaches are going to be, understanding the support they’re going to have the stadium, in the training facility, in the market, their quality of life.” He went on to note that Wolff was So “another piece of the puzzle to talk to a [prospective] DP about what kind of club we’re going to be.” 

Austin FC staffers and fans took to social media to capture the flavor of the event — including the fan who bought Wolff a drink and brought it to him on stage after asking four questions: 

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