After a Ricardo Pepi brace helped see off the Flamingos from Madison in the USL League One semi-final, North Texas SC plays host to Greenville Triumph SC to decide the inaugural USL League One Championship title.

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Match Information

Date: Saturday, October 19th

Time: 6:00 PM CST

Location: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

How to Watch: ESPN+

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This match-up to decide the winner of the inaugural USL League One season will be the fourth time that NTSC and Greenville Triumph have faced off. The first match-up on May 4th in Greenville ended in a 1-0 victory for North Texas with the lone goal coming from FC Dallas homegrown Thomas Roberts. The second match-up in Frisco on July 7th ended in a scoreless draw and later that month Greenville returned to Frisco for the final regular season match-up between the clubs and came away with a 4-0 victory after Edwin Cerrillo, another FC Dallas homegrown, was sent off in the 20th minute, resulting in the one and only time that NTSC was defeated at home during the 2019 season.

Greenville Triumph come into the championship match-up having traveled to Lansing and taking down the Ignite 1-0. Much like NTSC’s semi-final opponent Forward Madison, Greenville have an incredibly stout defense. In their 28 regular season games and 1 playoff game, the Triumph have only conceded 22 goals, the best mark in the league. This attention and focus on defense has had a negative impact on their output going forward as GTSC only scored 33 goals in the regular season plus the playoffs. Only the Richmond Kickers and Orlando City B, the two teams at the bottom of the league table, scored fewer goals over the course of the 2019 season. Greenville ended the regular season in 3rd place, even on points with 4th place Madison but edging them out on goal difference. Their road record was relatively average at 6-4-5, though they really came to life on the road in the second half of the season, culminating in their road playoff win to reach the final.

North Texas SC enter the final on the back of a 2-0 home win against the aforementioned Forward Madison FC. NTSC have flown through the season on the back of a high-flying attack, scoring 55 goals in the 29 regular season plus playoff games. NTSC finished the 2019 season as regular season champions with 56 points, 10 points clear of second place Lansing Ignite. Although the high-flying offense led by the likes of Ricardo Pepi and Ronaldo Damus got most of the attention, the NTSC defense were no slouches, posting the 3rd best defensive record in the league over the course of the season and putting up 13 clean sheets in 2019. This success came despite a lot of lineup changes with players coming down from FC Dallas or coming up from the academy level to join the USL contracted players. With NTSC’s home form and high-flying offense, they are surely favorites to take home the first USL League One title.

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Projected Lineups

North Texas SC

NTSC vs Greenville Lineup

Quite a few changes in this lineup as FC Dallas returns to action this weekend, traveling to Seattle to take on the Sounders in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs. Edwin Cerrillo, John Nelson, Jimmy Maurer and Ricardo Pepi all started NTSC’s 2-0 semi-final win over Forward Madison but Cerrillo, Nelson and Maurer traveled with the first team to Seattle and Pepi is away with the U17 national team preparing for the upcoming U17 World Cup. This means returns to the starting lineup for goalkeeper Carlos Avilez, left back Jonathan Gomez, USL League One All-League Second Team midfielder Alfusainey Jatta and FC Dallas homegrown Dante Sealy. It also moves USL League One top scorer and USL League One All-League First Team forward Ronaldo Damus back to the central forward position, from which he scored the majority of his 16 league goals. Arturo Rodriguez also made the All-League First Team and is a serious contender for League MVP, he’ll need to be on that kind of form for NTSC to take home the title.

Greenville Triumph SC

Greenville vs NTSC Lineup

This is an unchanged lineup from the starting eleven that went to Lansing and defeated the Ignite (RIP) 1-0 to reach the final. Goalkeeper Dallas Kaye and defenders Tyler Polak and Cole Seiler earned USL League One All-League First Team honors, unsurprising for the best defensive unit in the league. They’ll have their hands full with the talented young wingers and forwards of NTSC. Winger Chris Bermudez scored the lone goal in the semi-final victory with attacking midfielder Carlos Gomez providing the assist, they are the major danger men recently for John Harkes’ side. English striker Cameron Saul has pitched in with 4 goals and 2 assists on the season and will lead the line for the Triumph with Aaron Walker and Paul Clowes setting up in the front of the back line, they’ll be tasked with stopping the likes of Thomas Roberts in the NTSC midfield.

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Keys to the Match

1) Embrace the Moment

The chance to win both the regular season title and the playoff final in the first year of North Texas SC’s existence should be incredibly exciting for the players on the field. Although NTSC primarily exists for developmental purposes to serve the FC Dallas first team and help develop talented homegrown players and academy players, the desire to win doesn’t go away for the players and coaching staff. They need to go out and understand the situation and the moment but also enjoy and embrace the fact that they’ve been so successful and follow through on all the promise and outright dominance they have shown over the course of the season.

2) Stay Tight in Defense

As previously mentioned, Greenville are a highly defensive team. The likely center back pairing of Callum Montgomery and Brecc Evans are going to spend large parts of the game involving themselves in the build up and passing the ball as opposed to doing huge amounts of pure defending. Evans and Montgomery have to stay alert and tight in defense to ensure that they are able to quickly snuff out Greenville’s counter-attacking opportunities and they must avoid any mistakes at the back at all costs, the last thing NTSC will want to do is gift such a solid defensive team a goal, especially in the early going, and allow them to park themselves behind the ball and make things incredibly difficult for the NTSC attack to break through.

3) Creativity in the Attack

It feels like the point has been hammered on ad nauseum, but Greenville’s defense is good. NTSC has had games during this USL League One season where they’ve been able to essentially create quality chances at will. That will not happen against Greenville. Greenville prefers to stick 10 men behind the ball, especially against a possession based team like NTSC, and attempt to stifle the opposing attack and beat them on the counter. If Greenville could win every game 1-0, head coach and former USMNT player John Harkes would absolutely take that in a heartbeat. All that to say that NTSC will have to pull out all the stops to score on this Greenville team. The likes of Thomas Roberts and Ronaldo Damus will need to be at the top of their game and be able to generate chances against a compact and organized defense if NTSC hope to win the first USL League One title.

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Will North Texas SC claim the first ever USL League One championship? Who will get the start for NTSC for this championship match-up? Sound off in the comments below!

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Featured Image: North Texas SC/Jack Wallace
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