Sports

The Verde Report: Yes, Owen Wolff Is the Coach’s Son. No, That Doesn’t Make Him a Nepo Baby.

Plus: Austin will host the All-Star Game


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

This column isn’t for you. You’re a regular Verde Report reader, which means you’re a knowledgeable Austin FC fan. And being a knowledgeable Austin FC fan, none of what follows should be revelatory. You’re a devout member of the choir, and this sermon is intended for someone else.

Specifically, it’s for the friend, co-worker, group chat mate, estranged relative, or whoever it is in your life who’s been mouthing off on social media lately that Austin FC midfielder Owen Wolff is some lousy nepo baby who only plays because his dad, Josh, is the team’s head coach. So please do the responsible thing and hand that person your copy of the Chronicle, and let us speak directly to them for a moment.

Okay. Hi. Welcome! First off, we understand. We’ve all seen it before. Coach’s Kid gets preferential treatment at the expense of other, better players just because Daddy is calling the shots. It’s as much a staple of youth sports as halftime orange slices.

But come on. This isn’t youth sports. 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’s no room for petty favoritism.

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

Wolff’s exploits as a promising teenage midfield prospect haven’t just resulted in a quick rise through the ATX academy ranks and into a significant role with the senior team. It’s also put him on the radar – and the roster – of multiple U.S. youth national teams. He was a standout performer at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup with a goal and two assists. Also in 2023, Owen was named to MLS’s 22 Under 22 list, highlighting the best young players in the league. Unless Josh Wolff moonlights as an anonymous MLSSoccer.com blogger, that’s a nepotism-free accolade.

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

Defensively he’s also been impressive, leading the club in dribblers tackled per game and creating the most turnovers in Austin’s attacking third. Wolff is in the 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, too. He’s the club’s best bet of developing into a homegrown player with a sizable international market, which could potentially lead to a multimillion-dollar transfer abroad.

Over the past five years, MLS clubs have combined to net over $100 million in profit from selling young American players to European clubs. Sporting director Rodolfo Borrell is on record 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 youngster is stapled to the bench. He needs match experience to develop as a player, and enough opportunity to put together the kind of highlight package that will get foreign managers’ mouths watering.

Sure, Ethan Finlay might 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 over your highest-upside future asset? Do you really think 2023 SuperDraft pick CJ Fodrey, who’s still officially an Austin FC II player on loan with Austin FC, is ready for more than a token role off the bench?

It’s well known that Josh Wolff’s approval rating among the Austin FC fan base resembles that of an eighth-year president, and there are some legitimate reasons for that being the case. The fact that the club’s top young prospect happens to be his son is categorically not one of them. We clear? OK, you can hand the paper back now.


Editor’s note: This issue went to press before Austin FC’s matchup vs. the Houston Dynamo Wednesday night at Q2 Stadium.

Austin to Host All-Star Game

At Antone’s Nightclub Wednesday afternoon, MLS commissioner Don Garber and Austin FC majority owner 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 Giroud, and ATXFC’s Sebastián Driussi – take on an opponent to be named later 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.

Read more Austin FC coverage at austinchronicle.com/austin-fc.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More The Verde Report
The Verde Report: Copa America Could Be Dani Pereira’s Ticket to Europe’s Biggest Leagues
The Verde Report: Copa America Could Be Dani Pereira’s Ticket to Europe’s Biggest Leagues
Austin FC starter dons the “Vinotinto” colors for Venezuela at June tourney

Eric Goodman, June 14, 2024

The Verde Report: New Austin FC Signings Dull the Blow of “Inexcusable” 5-1 Loss
The Verde Report: New Austin FC Signings Dull the Blow of “Inexcusable” 5-1 Loss
Club continues to solidify big roster moves for the upcoming midseason transfer window

Eric Goodman, June 7, 2024

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin FC, The Verde Report, Owen Wolff, Josh Wolff, All-Star Game

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle