North Texas SC returned home after going on a four-game road trip that saw them come away with a 1-1-2 record with 4 points. FC Tucson were the visitors as North Texas SC went onto scrape out a difficult 1-0 win to regain the number 1 position in USL League One.
Things got off to a slow start for both teams. The game was very open for both teams and not in a good way as defending was not a strong point for either team. The game was also a little choppy with players going at each other and the referee making a few calls that made you scratch your head. Ronaldo Damus overtook Ricardo Pepi as the team’s and USL League One’s leading goal scorer with a goal coming from outside of the box which brought his goalscoring tally to 8 goals. Kevin Bonilla assisted on the lone goal of the evening.
39' ROOONNAAALDOOOO Damus opens the scoring! ?
— North Texas SC (@northtexasSC) June 26, 2019
In the second half, North Texas SC looked to change the quality of play. Passing was tidier across the team and NTSC looked to build out of the back. The play was evenly distributed along the flanks and middle. Through balls were also finding players in the final third. Imanol Almaguer was Eric Quill’s first substitution of the night as he came in for Kevin Bonilla. After Cristian Colman made his return from injury and playing 60 minutes, Johan Gomez came in for him as he aimed to give NTSC a goal. Tanner Tessman was the final sub for North Texas SC as he came in for Oscar Romero.
Thoughts and Takeaways
Not the Ideal Game
It wasn’t a pretty game of soccer that was on display for fans of North Texas SC. There were moments where the game was sloppy given the high pressing nature of both teams and multiple passes missing their intended targets. The wasn’t much fluidity between players on either team as well. North Texas SC was looking to play a convincing style while FC Tucson was playing hard and gritty soccer aiming to attack on the counter.
The second half was a different story as North Texas SC was more patient with their possession and developing their play. NTSC was able to successfully build the ball out of the back and move the ball up the field with a threatening purpose. A large part of the style change was the impact that Thomas Roberts had on the entire match. Roberts along with Arturo Rodriguez were able to link the defense and attack together and help support both aspects of the game. Roberts and Rodriguez’s skill on the ball allowed them to dribble the ball up the field and create attacking opportunities for NTSC.
“It was more so between me and Arturo and the fluidity between us and our interchanging opened up [the game],” Roberts explained to the media. “When me and him moved more, that’s what disorganized the defense and once you figure that out you can play it through the outside backs. They (FC Tucson) got tired throughout the match because we were moving them.”
Going on a four-game away game streak is hard for any team (just look at the Portland Timbers who have been on the road for a healthy amount of the 2019 season so far). Coming away with 4 points out of 4 away games for any team is remarkable. Though, with North Texas SC, it just didn’t seem right given the dominant performance that the team has displayed thus far into the season.
“[I’m] really pleased, really proud of the guys after coming off of a loss on the road where you dejected and you got to turn it right around in a short span,” Quill said. “You never know what things are going to be like and some guys came off the airplane after playing 90 minutes yesterday. You got to try to put all the pieces together and not know what the outcome is going to be. I was pretty amazed by some of the spells of play we had and the physical perseverance that a lot of guys showed so really, really proud of them.”
Eric Quill can be proud of the performance that his team put on given the tough loss to Forward Madison 3 days before this match and for grinding out a hard-fought win. Even if it wasn’t pretty, the result is enough to help keep this team moving forward.
Things have not been easy in the past when it comes to the schedule for North Texas SC with going through long stretches between games and then playing multiple games in quick succession. The team has also been shorthand with USSDA (U.S. Soccer Development Academy) playoffs happening at the same time as NTSC is playing their games resulting in key players missing games for NTSC. This stretch of matches has proven to be a learning experience for players and coaches alike.
“Its year one of an organization with a second team and to think that everything is going to go one hundred percent smooth all the time is naive and not realistic so these things are learning curves,” Quill explained. “So, we document, and we try to make it better the next time and be better prepared next time of the year. With academy showcase and game conflicts happening, it’s just like players, you need to fail to learn. These things happen and we stuck together and that’s a special thing about this club: one guy falls and the next guy picks them up. We put it together and there’s a bond here that these guys understand what it takes to win.”
Thomas Roberts played as a 6 in this match which required Roberts to play more of a defensive game than what he is used to. Despite this change in role, Roberts was grateful for the opportunity and took the change as an opportunity to grow.
“It’s the first time playing six since I was like 10 years old but I thought it was good for my discipline and helped me with my positioning and where to be and if I ever have to play that position again,” Roberts told reporters. “… Just playing 6 and having that defensive-mind set it good for me because it helps me balance my game out. Sometimes I just want to go and I’m more comfortable in the final third and but it’s good for me to play out of the back and it helps my ability to play too.”
For players like Tanner Tessmann, Imanol Almaguer, Kevin Bonilla, and Johan Gomez who are all playing in with the FC Dallas U-18’s in the USSDA playoffs. The travel requires adaptability for players as well.
Almaguer shared with reporters just what it was like for those that are playing in multiple competitions saying, “It’s a lot of traveling. Actually, we woke up at 4 in the morning for a 6 AM flight and it was tough but it’s what I do and it’s what I love: to just play soccer.”
North Texas will have some stability in their schedule with having a game once a week through the middle of August. This should give Quill and his staff time to get a consistent roster going and give the team some stability going forward. With this stability, North Texas SC will look to build a cushion on top of the table again.
It wasn’t the prettiest soccer game, but the result and hard-fought win meant more for the team and players such as Cristian Colman who is working his way back from injury. North Texas SC will look to regain the dominant form they had at the beginning of the season and reestablish themselves as a team to fear in USL League One.
North Texas SC returns to the pitch on Saturday, June 29 at Toyota Stadium with a kickoff time of 7:00 PM as they take on Lansing Ignite FC
Featured Image: North Texas SC/Jack Wallace