My esteemed colleague, Uncle Tony P, wrote a piece yesterday arguing that the underlying data suggests that Josh Wolff should be sacked. Maybe because I am a patient man who is so used to dealing with travel delays that it’s second nature, but the piece struck me as a bit hurried. Look, no one is thrilled about how we lost in CCL to Violette or got thrashed in the Open Cup by the Chicago Fire.
But even in a disappointing start to the season, this team is above the playoff line today and would host RSL in a elimination playoff game at home to start the playoffs. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Are we really a team that would sack a coach on a contract until 2025 one season after making the Western Conference finals when we are still in a playoff position?
Before diving into deeper into the stats, let’s back up here. For better or worse, Josh Wolff has established an identity for the organization. This basic style of play is leading to an FCito team that in its first season is one of the top teams in MLS Next Pro, and providing quite a bit of joy for our community. It’s inspiring a youth academy that won the U15 Generation Adidas Cup in only the second year in which we competed in the prestigious tournament. While a certain movie star owner 100 Year War may be a stupid cliché, there is no doubt that we are building something bigger here in Austin, and Josh Wolff is the figure most responsible for that identity on the pitch.
Uncle Tony P is alarmed by the fact that our form is pretty much the same for teams above and below us in the table. I am actually encouraged by that fact. Does it suck to lose at home to RSL? Of course. Is it amazing to steal 3 points in Seattle or heck even get 3 points in Utah? You betcha! Is this team capable of getting 26 points from our final 18 matches to safely clinch a playoff spot at 45 points? For sure! Last year, we would have only needed 43 points to make the playoffs in the West and 42 in the East. This season is far from over.
3 teams in the league have sacked coaches this season. Inter Miami has lost their only match since then. In the 6 matches since sacking Ezra Hendrickson, the Chicago Fire have gotten a whopping 6 points, even if they have won 2 Open Cup matches. The Red Bulls have been a bit better with 10 points in 6 matches, but that involved their star DP racist returning during this stretch. With only 1 match in the next two weeks, it’s realistic to expect that this team will be healthier coming into the two Copa Tejas home matches later on this month (Seba and Diego should be in better shape, Owen will be back from the U-20 World Cup, Rado will hopefully be back, and the team will finally get some rest from this hectic schedule).
Uncle Tony P focuses on the realities that our defense has been relatively fine without the expected backline for this season, but the offense has struggled. But then again, as some of our most loyal readers have pointed out, Josh Wolff’s backline main objective is to create more offense over solid defending. It’s hardly a surprise that our 5 match stretch with one goal came out while Julio Cascante was out, considering his offensive usage can seen be as similar to a midfielder in most other systems.
So what’s next? Teams that succeed in the playoffs often go on a late season run to get there. Look at the 2021 finalists. NYCFC had 3 wins and 2 draws to finish their regular season to finish 4th at 51 points before going onto win MLS Cup. Their opponent, the Portland Timbers, had 24 points after 20 matches, before picking up 31 points in their final 14 matches (and there was even a 3 game losing streak in that run!). This league is all about getting hot at the right time, and there is still plenty of time for this team to find their wind and pull off a nice run like we did last summer to bank significant points.
The astute reader may ask what it would take to sack Josh Wolff. Assuming there is no improper behavior or a public player protest against him (if either of those happen, I’m instantly #Wolffout), he should at least keep his job through the end of the season. If this team does not make the expanded playoffs, I am fine with sacking him. If we lose a play-in game, I’m 50-50. If this team makes the playoffs and we see enough hope around the system, I would be ready to continue with Wolff at the helm.
Josh Wolff is no one’s idea of an inspiring leader. He does not suit what many of our fans have as their ideal of a coach. He probably should not have been hired before a sporting director. However, that’s water under the bridge. This guy got our team to a Western Conference Final in our second season, and if he can lead us to a second playoff trip in 3 years with all of these injuries and this crazy schedule, he should be secure in the job. There’s no reason for us to be Chelsea or half of Liga MX, where you are expected to sack your coach every 6 month. Be patient, and enjoy the ride!