#WolffIn or #WolffOut?
Just halfway through the first season, Head Coach Josh Wolff is enduring the heat from disgruntled Austin FC fans after weeks of lackluster results.
In 17 weeks, the MLS expansion team has fallen to the bottom of the Western Conference, tallied just 13 goals—the lowest in the league—and has been shut out of all but two matches in their own home fortress.
Wolff has become the unfortunate face of the blame as pressure mounts, stating a clear "we need to score" mantra with increasingly frustrated undertones.
Bali, Austin FC fan and champion of the #WolffOut movement on Twitter, has been skeptical of the first-time head coach since before it was warranted; as the weeks go by, he's seen responses shift from calling him "crazy" to asking to wave a "Wolff Out" banner with him at the next home match.
"To me, he wasn't the guy since the beginning," Bali said.
Bali, pictured center, has been skeptical of Wolff since the beginning. (Bali/Twitter)
It wasn't until the FC Dallas match—which saw Austin's triple threat, Designated Players Tomas Pochettino, Cecilio Dominguez and Sebastian Driussi, out of the starting lineup in a 2-0 rivalry loss—that Bali said others began to catch on. "That kind of woke everyone up," Bali said.
The FC Dallas loss was the "nail in the coffin" for some of the seven busloads of fans that traveled to the rivalry match, and the feeling didn't get much sweeter as Austin fell 1-0 in a tumultuous road loss to Real Salt Lake.
Some who stay on the "Wolff In" side say that the lack of success was expected for an expansion team, drawing references to the 2002 Houston Texans and other MLS expansion teams—just four of which have been granted playoff berth in their first season in the past decade.
"I hope people can find peace and just enjoy the fact that we have a team, that we are out there with other great U.S. and international cities like Los Angeles & Monterrey, Mexico," fan Brandon Farmahini said. "I hope they can be happy just knowing that we have a common rallying point in our community that allows people of all different shapes and colors to come together in order to not only create a dynamic and addicting experience in the stands but also to make positive improvements to the city itself."
Others are more blunt with their disapproval of Wolff's "play from the back" strategy and often-cautious substitution decisions.
"You know that game that babies play with putting the shapes through the correct holes?" Austin FC fan Zachary Ullman said. "He keeps trying to put the square shape through the triangle hole week after week after week."
Wolff has been a stickler for his strategy all season. Since Day 1, Wolff, a former protegee of U.S. Men's National Team head coach Greg Berhalter, has stuck to possession-heavy gameplay, constructing a complex style that falls heavily into positional play.
But it doesn't seem like the players are buying into the brand, Austin FC fan Michael Bartlemay said.
"My primary concern right now is that it doesn't really feel like the team is getting better," Bartlemay said. "My question is, is do the players buy into what Josh Wolff is selling? My biggest fear right now is not that Josh Wolff is astute tactically, it's not about patience or judgment, it's about, 'are the players getting what he's selling?' Because if not, it's not going to work."
Austin FC fan Barrett Dietz, who said he is "awfully close" to converting to the "Wolff Out" movement, said Wolff will need to switch to his players' strengths to stay on board.
"Wolff needs to bend his tactics to the players in the squad, plain and simple," Dietz said. "At halfway through the season, our offense is still painfully inadequate and that's on Wolff."
It doesn't help that the team doesn't have a striker. Well before the signing and arrival of Driussi, the team hoped to alleviate that with the signing of 22-year-old striker Moussa Djitte in late June. Over a month later, Djitte finally turned up in Austin but still has no concrete date set for his debut with the team.
While fans understand what lacking a striker can do to a team, some wonder what error in leadership kept Djitte, who hasn't played since May, out for so long in the first place. Others wonder if Djitte alone can settle their ever-mounting scoring woes.
Wolff's cautious gameplay has even led some fans to believe the worst of all: he simply doesn't care about losing as much as they do.
"His lineup selection vs. Dallas really put me over the edge," Austin FC fan Chris Welhausen said. "He completely ignored the fans' desire to win that game... I still can't think of another coach in the world who would (bench star players) on a rivalry game. Something else that really frustrates me about him is he has yet to take clear responsibility or apologize to the fans, which again makes me think he views this as his team, not our club."
Some worry that a lack of success on the pitch may lead to lack of interest in the team, especially for new soccer fans.
Bali takes that fear seriously, and he's prepared to take action.
"If I have to be in there with the Wolff sign all by myself, I'll do it," Bali said. "Because I'm taking this into my own hands. I clearly see that this will not change."
While Bali would've ousted Wolff two weeks ago, others are giving Wolff until the end of the season before their support goes sour. But the most positive of the bunch hope to see Wolff's slow-burn tactics turn successful. Austin fan Mike Carr said fan's should wait three years before they carry the anti-Wolff pitchfork themselves.
"Good coaches do not get stupid overnight," Carr said. Wolff has proven a good tactician. Austin FC is following the same experience path as the USMNT; it takes players longer to grasp more complex schemes. We don't want style that wins yesterday's skill level."
Still, Bali said things could turn toxic quick if Wolff and the team's scoring woes continue.
"It's going to get to a point where it's going to be toxic," Bali said. "'Wolff In' and 'Wolff Out.'"
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The Austin woman suspected of killing star cyclist visiting from out of town, Moriah "Mo" Wilson, has now been captured after evading arrest for more than a month.
Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, an Austin yoga instructor, is believed by officials to be the killer of Wilson, who was found with gunshot wounds in a friend's house on May 11. The murder is being investigated as a crime of passion after Wilson met up with Armstrong's ex-boyfriend.
According to the U.S. Marshals, Armstrong was located at a hostel on Santa Teresa Beach in Provincia de Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Officials said she may have been using her sister's name after fleeing Austin on May 14, the day after police questioned her. She was last identified at Newark Liberty International Airport on May 18.
Federal authorities say they plan on returning Armstrong to the U.S., where she'll face charges of murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Here's a timeline of events since the night of Wilson's murder.
- The night of her death, Wilson met with Armstrong’s ex-boyfriend Colin Strickland, a fellow pro cyclist. According to an affidavit, the pair went swimming, then to dinner, before he dropped Wilson off at her friend's home where she was staying in East Austin at around 8:30 p.m.
- While Wilson and Stickland had previously had a romantic relationship, Stickland said the two were friends. The affidavit says Strickland lied to Armstrong about his whereabouts that evening.
- Video footage shows Armstrong’s Jeep pulled up nearby the home within a minute of Wilson arriving home.
- At around 10 p.m., Wilson's friend called Austin police after finding her in a pool of blood. Wilson had been staying with the friend ahead of the upcoming bike race in nearby Hico, Texas.
- Armstrong was brought in for questioning the day after the murder and released after appearing “very still and guarded” when confronted with video evidence.
- The Lone Star Fugitive Task Force said her black Jeep Cherokee was sold to a South Austin CarMax dealership on May 13 for $12,200.
- She leaves from the Austin airport on May 14.
- Shell casings found on the scene matched a gun belonging to Armstrong.
- Austin police obtained an arrest warrant for Armstrong on May 17.
- She took a flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to San Jose, Costa Rica on May 18 using a fraudulent passport, according to the Marshals.
- On May 25, another warrant was obtained for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
- On June 29, she was captured by the U.S. Marshals
On Thursday, the Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority in regulating greenhouse gases, a move that comes at a time when experts have warned about the need to take action on climate change.
The ruling was brought after a challenge to a lower court opinion brought by Texas and more than a dozen other states.
Vaibhav Bahadur, an associate professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin called the SCOTUS decision significant, noting that Texas is the biggest energy producer in the U.S., and produces more energy than the United Kingdom.
“Power generation accounts for a significant fraction of U.S. carbon emissions, and the EPA loses its ability to control what's happening in about half of that sector,” Bahadur said. “And it's not just the U.S., I think people and environmentalists on pretty much anywhere on the planet will be disappointed because this is going in the wrong direction. We know we want to be decarbonizing, and this is essentially putting a roadblock on progress toward decarbonization.”
So, we’re going to need some insurance, Bahadur says. He’s carrying out work that’ll act as such through his research on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), the process of sucking carbon from the air and burying it.
For the past five years, he’s been working on a novel approach to storing carbon. It involves supercharging the formation of carbon dioxide-based crystal structures and storing billions of tons of carbon under the ocean floor.
“If all of this is successful, then we will have another option for safely and responsibly storing carbon at the bottom of the seabed for essentially eternity,” Bahadur said.
Still, Bahadur talked about a different approach to responsibly cutting down emissions in the next decade, and doing so in a meaningful and substantial way, then the environment will eventually heal itself and we might not need CCS.
But that’s not the path we’re headed down.
“We're already starting to see temperature records being shattered this year, and we're still to hit peak summer,” Bahadur said. “All of this just makes me think that we need CCS to a larger extent, and possibly sooner than what a lot of scientists anticipate, especially if we can't keep our emissions in check.”
Gary Rochelle, a professor in the department of chemical engineering at UT, thinks CCS was ready to be deployed in 2010 and those 12 years have made a difference.
“But now we've emitted all that CO2,” Rochelle said. “And unfortunately, unlike other pollutants, when you emit CO2, it's there. It's not going away.”
Gary Rochelle and Vaibhav Bahadur are both researching technology to address carbon emissions. (UT)
Still, the delay is good in that now researchers like him have had time to learn about and improve the technology, allowing for fewer problems once it's deployed.
In December, UT announced a licensing agreement with advanced technology company Honeywell. The technology from that is targeted at power, steel, cement and other industrial plants to lower emissions.
Rochelle has been working on the technology since 2000 as part of an international collaborative effort. When he talked to Austonia on Thursday, he had just had calls with collaborators in Germany and Norway. Currently, he’s working with some Ph.D. students on addressing a chemical reaction that can happen with the technology known as oxidation that could lead to ammonia emissions and cause problems for a large-scale commercial unit.
Rochelle says he’s driven to this work because he wants to make a contribution.
“We're trying to develop this technology so that we can make a difference,” Rochelle said. “It's a nice problem to work on. The students are motivated and those are the primary things which drive us.”
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott celebrated the high court’s decision which acted as a blow to President Joe Biden’s plan to reduce emissions.
“Today’s landmark victory against an out-of-control administration is also a big win for Americans who worry about skyrocketing energy costs due to expensive federal regulations that threaten our energy industry,” Abbott said. “President Biden cannot keep attacking the energy industry and the hardworking men and women who power our nation.”
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