North Texas Soccer Club has made it to the halfway point of their inaugural season and what a season it has been thus far. As of publication, North Texas SC is in first place with 33 points having a record of 10-3-2 (W-D-L).
It’s been quite the season for this young team, and they have given fans much to be happy about. With so much having happened already with the club, let’s look how far North Texas SC has come in just half a season.
Being in first place consistently may have been more than what many were anticipating with this club. With many of the players being in their teens and early twenties, such a young team has taken USL League 1 by storm and has proven to be a formidable team. Though, it shouldn’t come as a surprise given the quality of players that the FC Dallas Academy has produced such as Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania, and Ricardo Pepi for example.
“I think it speaks volumes of the quality in the academy because most of the players here have played in the Academy,” Evans explained. “Most of our entire lineup has come from the Academy and being able to translate some of that success from the Academy to USL League One speaks of the quality that we have and even at the first-team level you’re seeing a lot guys starting to dominate MLS through the Academy and were developed in the same organization. Doing it at the USL League One level, we’re very proud of that here.”
Head Coach Eric Quill has been tasked on guiding these young professionals to becoming first-team members while still competing in the league. Like his team, Coach Quill has made quite the impact in his first-year coaching in North Texas as he has already accumulated two awards: Coach of the Month (May) and Midseason Coach of the Year. As much success that Coach Quill has had on the field, it hasn’t come with some difficulties.
One of the biggest difficulties for him has been the change in player personnel available to him throughout the season. The away game against Forward Madison FC demonstrated the limited number of players as Assistant Coach Michel Garbini was called to play in the midfield. North Texas SC was afforded 3 substitutes, one who was goalkeeper Eduardo Cortes who had a field jersey prepared if his services were needed in the field. To enumerate the number of changes, North Texas SC has registered 33 players on their roster.
“The biggest one is just obviously managing the changes and the everyday changes and not having a consistent roster of eighteen or a roster of twenty that you see every day in training,” Quill said when asked about the changing player personnel. “The mixing and matching are difficult, but I’ve gotten ahold of it, but it is what it is and it’s a matter of making the best of it.”
One would think that the changes in the players would impact the chemistry of the 11 players on the field but a big advantage that North Texas SC has is the FC Dallas Academy. Again, many of the players that are playing on North Texas SC have also played with each other in the Academy. That chemistry between players has helped lessen the impact of the sometimes-drastic changes in player availability. Even with the changes in players, there has been quite the number of players that have made a name for themselves.
The player that has drawn the most attention is Ricardo Pepi who was first signed in December of 2018 and has now made the transition to FC Dallas. The “Pepi Path” embodies what the club is about: bring in a player who is young and has potential, groom him with North Texas SC, and send him to FC Dallas.
With the departure of Ricardo Pepi, Ronaldo Damus has stepped into the spotlight that has been left open and is now the team’s leading goal scorer with 9 goals in 13 games. Arturo Rodriguez has been instrumental to the attack as he has not only scored 3 goals in 15 games but has been creating chances for the team: 6 assists (tied for League One’s most), 31 chances created (tied for League One’s most), and 81.1% pass accuracy as a midfielder and attacking player.
Alfusainey Jatta has made a name from himself for having a dominating presence in the midfield and for playing with high intensity. Jatta, normally playing in the midfield, has also been tasked with playing in the backline when NTSC was short on players. Tanner Tessmann has made an impact in every game that he has played in regardless of his placement on the field. While playing as a 10 in the Academy, the tall 17-year old has displayed the quality for at least an NTSC contract.
One of the players that hasn’t received much praise is Kevin Bonilla who quietly puts in solid performance after solid performance on the right side of the field. While he doesn’t have a flashy style of play, he can shut down the right side and make his way up the field. He plays similarly to Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez of UANL Tigres in Mexico. On the opposite side of Bonilla is 15-year old Jonathan Gomez who, despite his age, has also put on multiple solid performances and has made an appearance for FC Dallas.
Another player who has displayed much potential is Imanol Almaguer who has played in the defense and midfield for North Texas SC. The versatile player has shown brilliance in the midfield as he has the vision to play long balls and connect the defense with the attack but also displayed solid defensive play.
The one player who has been tasked with leading this team on the field is the young 19-year old Brecc Evans. Being 19 and the captain of the team is quite the honor for any player but having already played 10 games this season, he has shown the skill and maturity that comes with the armband.
“It’s an honor,” Evans stated humbly. “I’ve played for the Academy for four-and-a-half, five years before signing here and for Eric [Quill] to trust me with that and see the natural leadership qualities come to fruition in the games. It’s definitely an honor.”
With the goal of the club being focused on the development and preparing players for the transition over to FC Dallas, the club’s placement in USL League One table was met with uncertainty. Being competitive in league play is still an important goal of this club as competition helps with the development with the team and players. Has the club accomplished its goal helping players make the transition from the Academy to the professional level?
“For sure,” Evans told Dallas Sports Nation (DSN). “You’ve already seen it with Pepi, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other guys up at the end of the year, next year getting the same opportunities. The way that it’s set up here being integrated with first-team training and the first-team coaches watching and keeping tabs on the players, having weekly discussions, they manage your progress closely. If you’re performing, you’re standing out amongst the bunch, the opportunities will come.”
It has been quite the season for the young club through 15 games, but they have already provided fans enough on the field to show that North Texas SC and FC Dallas have quality players for the future.
While the team still has plenty of games to go, the skill and quality of this team are very worthwhile to come and see play. These players and the coaching staff have already laid the foundation of excellence for the future North Texas SC teams. The second half of the season has plenty left in store.
Featured Image: North Texas SC/Jack Wallace