AUSTIN (KXAN) – It wasn’t long ago that the idea of the US national football team in Austin was nothing more than a fantasy.
“Even just a few years ago we were here at Haymaker watching the games on TV and neither of us really dreamed of having the national team here in town,” said fan Jesse Easdon.
But a lot can change in a few years – and now the Men’s National Team is gearing up to face Jamaica in a crucial World Cup qualifier at Q2 Stadium.
The first-ever World Cup qualifier in Texas kicks off Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and marks the final stage in Austin’s growth as a soccer city.
The women’s and men’s national teams played at Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium this summer, but the stakes will be higher for a World Cup qualifier – a must-see after a rocky start in the World Cup qualifying campaign. American team.
“This is something really important,” said Easdon, president of the Austin chapter of American Outlaws, the national fan group for the national teams.
“This brings us to the World Cup. We expect them to get there, to qualify for the World Cup, and then to go further and do very well at the World Cup, ”he said.
Expectations lead to pressure. Disappointing results add to this pressure.
After drawing a draw with El Salvador and Canada in their first two World Cup qualifiers, the United States lost 1-0 at halftime to Honduras in their third game. The second half, where they scored four times to win 4-1, could prove to be the turning point of this campaign.
The coming week will be a pivotal one, with three qualifiers in six days, starting with the clash with Jamaica on Thursday.
The team that has been training in Austin all week is strong. It features players from top European clubs, such as captain Tyler Adams, Weston McKinnie and Sergiño Dest.
They won’t have to worry about a lack of support Thursday night.
American Outlaws, which has about 730 members in Austin, plans to take over the rowdy fan section of Austin FC with banners, flag and drums.
They will even exhibit a tifo, a huge work of art, before kickoff. Easdon hasn’t revealed what he looks like, but promised it would be “breathtaking”.
“It will definitely be a surprise,” he said, “but I can tell you it’s huge. It’s one of the biggest ever made by American Outlaws.
“The artwork is really amazing, but it’s also a message for the players. We tell them that we expect great things from them.
With a packed house, the Outlaws hope to replicate the atmosphere created by fans of Austin FC at Q2 Stadium.
“It’s going to be loud,” Easdon said. “That’s what everyone always says about Austin FC games – just like that, it’s going to be extremely loud and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“I think it will also be a celebration,” he added.
The drums and vocals will be music to the ears of USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter, who called on fans to make some noise at a press conference on Wednesday.
“We know Austin is crazy,” he said. “It’s one of the best atmospheres in Major League Soccer and we hope to have a similar type of atmosphere tomorrow night.”
Berhalter, who worked alongside Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff for years at the Columbus Crew and on the national team, also praised Austin’s facilities.
“From a training ground perspective Austin has been amazing,” he said. “It is a first class establishment.
Berhalter might want a carnival vibe in the stands, but for Austin fans, the party starts Wednesday.
Members of the American Outlaws will host a pre-game night at Haymaker in east Austin on Wednesday night, where former American players will stop by.
When the game finally begins after days of preparation, Easdon has high hopes.
“I expect the team to win,” he said. “I think it’s a game we absolutely have to win.”