AUSTIN, Texas — The result never really mattered.
Austin FC’s inaugural match Saturday at Q2 Stadium, a scoreless draw against the San Jose Earthquakes, was about more than just soccer. Sure, a goal and a win would’ve made the experience that much better, but the 20,738 fans that packed the stadium were there for the moment.
It was about the spectacle, the biggest party in Texas revolving around a Major League Soccer game. Coach Josh Wolff said he learned a lot about his squad’s toughness in earning eight points from eight road games to start the season. Fans followed Austin FC everywhere from Los Angeles to Kansas City those first two months. On Saturday, they finally got to watch them at home.
“Hopefully we can embrace the tradition and other teams can follow us on that. We want to be the best,” said Fibrik, who plays drums for La Murga de Austin the supporters’ section band. “We’ve been preparing for over three years for this s***. We’re ready to go.”
Austin indeed was.
The gates opened three hours prior to kickoff as fans were able to settle in early and enjoy indoor amenities like the Captain Morgan Club, beer hall and more. The drums echoed through the warm Texas air while green and black flags waved from the 3,500-seat, standing-only south section of Q2 Stadium. “Minister of Culture” Matthew McConaughey appeared in an all green suit, banging on drums before the action got started. The tifo that was unveiled included local legends like McConaughey, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and more.
“To be honest it was amazing. I remember when I stepped out right before the game started, I got the chills. It was something special,” said Austin FC’s Diego Fagundez. “I know [the fans] have been working so hard for it. I know the whole team was ready for it and it’s kind of sad that we’re leaving with a tie.
“This is just the beginning. We’re going to make this a fortress. We’re going to make this a place where no wants to play.”
Q2 Stadium is the latest shiny toy in MLS, and one member of the Austin FC front office said the waitlist for season tickets is now up to 23,000.
“Pride in Austin is a thing, now we have a sports team, a soccer team, the best sport in the world to celebrate,” said season ticket-holder Paul Casey. “Once the vibe grows, more people get into it and they begin to understand what it means to support your city through a sports team, I think even more people will come out here. I think we’ll be sold out for life.”
For about the first 10 minutes after the initial whistle Saturday, pretty much nobody in the crowd sat down. The volume raised any time the guys in Verde did anything.
“Born and raised in Austin, waited 46 years to have a professional team. Here we are baby, it’s our time,” said Kacey Cummings, who rocked a green wig and banged drums along with La Murga. “Austin has an energy like no other city in this country. Now you put a professional team with the energy that futbol brings, it just takes it to the next level.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles. Wolff and his team know they need to start racking up wins, especially at home, for this inaugural season to be a success. The lack of finishing quality in the final third will continue to linger as a sore spot until it’s addressed. It all comes with the territory as a first-year franchise.
When McConaughey made his media rounds ahead of Austin FC’s first game back in April, he said this team isn’t going to be a fad. From fans to sponsors to the front office, the idea is to magnify the best of Austin on the main stage.
“It was a spectacle of football,” said Quakes head coach Matias Almeyda. “I enjoyed seeing it and being part of it. I liked the stadium and how the fans supported their team. It was a day of football joy. Long live that football.”
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