On October 16, 2017, soccer pundit Grant Wahl Tweeted: “Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt is set to move team to Austin, Texas, in 2019 if downtown stadium can’t happen in Columbus. Story soon.”
That Tweet set off a firestorm on Twitter of angry Columbus soccer fans and excited Austin soccer fans. And I was there for every second of it sharing my enthusiasm about the prospect of having MLS in Austin.
It was perfect timing for me. I was in a bad place as I worked through the steps leading to divorce after 21 years of marriage. The soccer controversy gave me something to hold onto and hope for, and dream about.
In addition to the action on Twitter, there were a series of events, discussions, and Austin City Council meetings about soccer in Austin. I started meeting some of the other people who were pushing for MLS in Austin.
I spent a lot of time at City Hall, speaking and supporting others who were behind the effort. One of the meetings went to nearly sunrise, and it was worth it (though my dogs didn’t like that I was gone so long).
It was a roller coaster of a time that bonded a bunch of us with attacks and doxxing from people in Columbus, some Austin City Council members doing all that they could to tank the effort, and a difficult time finding a suitable location for a stadium.
In August 2018, there was finally a City Council vote, and it went 7-4 in favor of a soccer stadium at McKalla Place… the current Q2 Stadium. Afterward, people from the Austin soccer community, City Council members, and Austin FC employees get together to celebrate with beers at Austin soccer bar, Haymaker.
Then on August 22, 2018, there was an event at the North Door to announce the Austin FC name and logo, and we got the first hats and shirts with the team on them.
But Austin still needed an actual team to play in the approved stadium. That was all worked out later in 2018 when it was decided the Columbus Crew would stay in Columbus and Austin would get a new team.
The official announcement of Austin FC joining MLS in 2021 took place January 12, 2019 at The Hoffbrau and it was amazing to celebrate with everyone about having a real team start playing in two years.
Throughout 2019, there were monthly Meet and Greets with Austin FC executives, including Sporting Director Claudio Reyna, Head Coach Josh Wolff, and Club President Andy Loughnane.
With each event, we were getting more amped up. Nobody realized on March 4, 2020, at an Austin FC Q&A at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ that it would be the last time a lot of us would see each other for a long time. Just a couple of weeks later, the world shut down.
Construction had started on Q2 Stadium, but I wasn’t sure if it would be paused and put the 2021 start in jeopardy. I would drive over there and check out the progress often, since I couldn’t really go anywhere else.
It was a relief when MLS pulled off a season in 2020, and as we moved on to 2021, it was announced that Austin FC would be on the road to start the season while the finishing touches were put on the stadium.
My first game was an away match against the Colorado Rapids, and it felt so good to see the first-ever Austin FC goal by Diego Fagundez and the first win for the club.
Soon after, I was able to get a tour of Q2 Stadium as a season ticket holder, and I knew I’d found my new church.
Austin FC came in second to last in the Western Conference in their first year, and I was just ecstatic that it was real. We had a team.
The 2022 season was a whole lot better on the field, with a second-place finish in the Western Conference.
And it was just too poetic that on October 16, 2022 – five years to the day of the Grant Wahl Tweet, Austin FC won their first playoff game.
Each time I walk into Q2 Stadium, I am home. It feels good to be there, and makes me happy.
Soccer is an escape, a thing to share and experience with the people I love, a place where I am part of something. It’s been part of the fabric of who I am since I was little and started playing.
And so many times, I’d go with my dad and brother to cheer on the Washington Diplomats, Team America, and the Baltimore Blast.
Soccer is more than a sport to me.