Austin FC midfielder Owen Wolff has been one of the club’s best two-way players in 2024. (courtesy of Austin FC)

This column is not for you. You’re a regular reader of the Verde Report, which means you’re a knowledgeable Austin FC fan. And being a knowledgeable Austin FC fan, none of the following should be revealing. You are a devout member of the choir and this sermon is meant for someone else.

Specifically, it’s for the friend, co-worker, group chat buddy, estranged relative or whoever in your life has been talking on social media lately that the Austin FC midfielder Owen Wolff is a badass nepo baby who only plays because his dad, Josh, is the team’s head coach. So please do the responsible thing and give that person your copy of it CHRONICLEand let’s talk directly to them for a moment.

Good. Greetings. Welcome! First, we get it. We’ve all seen it before. The coach’s kid gets preferential treatment at the expense of other, better players just because daddy’s calling. It’s as much a staple of youth sports as orange slices at halftime.

But come on. This is not a youth sport. This is Major League Soccer, the highest division of professional soccer in the United States. It’s a business. Winning matters. Jobs are on the line. There is no place for small favors.

At just 19, Owen Wolff plays for Austin FC – sparingly, we might add (he’s only logged 13 minutes of any ATX player this season, mostly as a substitute) – for two reasons. First, because he earned it.

Wolff’s exploits as a promising teenage midfield prospect have not only resulted in a rapid rise through the ATX academy ranks and an important role with the senior team. It also puts him on the radar – and roster – of many US youth national teams. He was a standout performer in 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup with one goal and two assists. Also in 2023, Owen was named to the MLS 22 Under 22 list, highlighting the best young players in the league. Unless Josh Wolff shows up as anonymous blogger, this is a non-nepotism rating.

The younger Wolff has also been an effective player for Austin when he has seen minutes this season. While he hasn’t looked to throw often enough, he leads the club in touches per game in the attacking third of the pitch. He contributed an assist and netted a penalty that led to the club’s only goal in a 2-1 road loss. FC Dallas Saturday evening. According to FBRef, he is one of only three ATX players to average over 1.0 key passes per game and leads the club in completions inside the 18-yard box per game.

Defensively, he has also been impressive, leading the club in dribblers per game and creating the most turnovers in Austin’s offensive third. Wolff is in conversation with Jon Gallagher AND Dani Pereira as one of El Tree’s best two-way players.

But that’s only half the story. Austin FC needs Owen Wolff on the pitch for investment reasons as well. He is the club’s best bet to develop into a homegrown player with a significant international market, which could potentially lead to a multi-million move abroad.

Over the past five years, MLS clubs have combined to earn over $100 million in profit from selling young American players to European clubs. The sports director Rodolfo Borrell is on record as stating that one of Austin FC’s goals is to become a “selling” club that routinely engages in such transfers, and Wolff is the best chance to blaze that trail. But that won’t happen if the young man is stuck on the bench. He needs match experience to develop as a player, and enough opportunities to put together the kind of mainstay package that will make foreign managers’ mouths water.

Of course, Ethan Finlay may have more goal contributions than Wolff over the past three seasons, but is it really worth playing a 33-year-old veteran on a one-year contract for your top asset going forward? Do you really think he will pick the 2023 SuperDraft? CJ Fodreywhich is still officially one Austin FC II loan player with Austin FC, is he ready for more than a token role off the bench?

It’s well known that Josh Wolff’s approval rating among Austin FC fans resembles that of an eighth-year president, and there are some legitimate reasons for that. The fact that the club’s top youngster happens to be his son is categorically not one of them. We clean? OK, you can return the paper now.

Editor’s note: This issue was released in advance of Austin FC’s game against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night at Q2 Stadium.

Austin will host the All-Star Game

At the Antone nightclub on Wednesday afternoon, the MLS commissioner Don Garber and majority owner of Austin FC Anthony Precourt announced that Austin FC will host the 2025 MLS All-Star Game. The event will see a roster of Major League Soccer’s biggest names – potentially including the likes of Lionel Messi, Olivier Giroudand ATXFC’s Sebastián Driussi – face an opponent to be named in an exhibition match at Q2 Stadium. The festivities — date TBA — will also include a skills competition and an entire week of fan events in and around Austin.

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