If Austin FC is looking for a blueprint to follow as it joins Major League Soccer as an expansion team, it could do worse than follow the example of its opponent in its inaugural game Saturday -- Los Angeles FC.
In its second MLS season in 2019, LAFC won the Supporters' Shield that goes to the team with the best record, and Carlos Vela captured the Golden Boot award with a league-record 34 goals.
"I think they play a very good way and (are) a great model for what teams can come in and be like if you commit to ... play good soccer," said Austin coach Josh Wolff, who was a rookie forward in 1998 when the expansion Chicago Fire won the MLS Cup.
That Chicago team, incidentally, was coached by Bob Bradley, who has led LAFC since its beginning.
The Black and Gold are looking to get back to that 2019 level this season after never quite clicking in last year's pandemic-shortened campaign.
Vela missed the MLS is Back Tournament last spring because of the birth of a child and then injured his knee. Teammate Diego Rossi led MLS with 14 goals but was unavailable for the playoffs after testing positive for the coronavirus and LAFC was eliminated by eventual Western Conference champion Seattle in the opening round.
"We're excited for this year," LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye said. "We want to get back to the type of football that everyone knows we're capable of playing. Having a good preseason under our belt and knowing that this year looks a little more like a typical MLS season, we're excited to get it going."
Austin went 1-1-1 in the preseason La Copita tournament, scoring 10 goals. Winger Cecilio Dominguez scored three goals and midfielder Tomas Pochettino added two in the tourney.
LAFC midfielder Latif Blessing said he expects Austin to be ready for the opener.
"Coming here, they're going to play like it's a World Cup Final," Blessing said. "They're going to try their best because it's a new MLS team and they want to win. We're ready to receive them at our home."
--Field Level Media