North Texas Soccer Club took on Greenville Triumph SC in the inaugural USL League One Final on a warm October evening at Toyota Stadium.
It was, without a doubt, a momentous evening for the young players as they had the opportunity to add a title to their young career and resume while gaining invaluable playoff experience.
It wasn’t just a big evening for the players, but also for Eric Quill and his staff. Coach Quill has guided his team to be competitive in the league while growing and developing players for FC Dallas. The chance to coach in a final in his first season after leading his club speaks volumes of the quality of his coaching and the success, he has had in 2019.
Greenville Triumph SC started the game coming out of the gates with lots of energy. This contrasted much of what League One viewers have known of Greenville as a team that plays in a low-block and attacks on the counter. This troubled the North Texas SC midfield and defense. North Texas began to impose their game plan as the minutes wore on. The first half became more even as both teams tried to fight through each other’s midfield and when the ball made it into the final third, the defenders did well to clear the ball upfield. Greenville resorted to playing down the flanks to try to pull North Texas SC players out of position. North Texas SC played with verticality and tried to use the skill of the midfield players to create opportunities through pockets of space in the Greenville formation.
Things were rather even between the two teams at the half. Even though North Texas SC had more passes (317 to 178) and possession (63.6% and 36.4%), in terms of attacking production and, both teams were even and limited.
Despite the limited chances for each team, Greenville Triumph SC had the better-quality chances as Kyle Zobeck made spectacular saves to keep the clean sheet for North Texas SC. The Greenville defense was tidier and disciplined, as was the rest of the Greenville team, and appeared more comfortable than the younger North Texas SC. Despite the nervy moments from North Texas SC, Eric Quill and his staff have done well in the past to help give his team the needed changes to succeed in the second half.
The second half started a little slower for both teams, but North Texas SC was more patient and comfortable than they were in the first half. North Texas SC played vertically down the flanks and Thomas Roberts and Imanol Almaguer did well to create attacking opportunities for the front-line.
It did not take long given the attacking chances that were being created as USL League One MVP front-runner Arturo Rodriguez scored the opening goal in the final to give North Texas SC the goal.
HE GIVES US THE 1-0 LEAD
LET'S GOOOOOO!!!! #NTXvGVL | #WeAreNow pic.twitter.com/ltSrlYFaCc
— North Texas SC (@northtexasSC) October 20, 2019
Tanner Tessman was the first substitute for Eric Quill as Alfusainey Jatta made way for the young midfielder. North Texas SC continued to grow in confidence as the match went on though Greenville Triumph continued to press forward and their attacking play became more and more threatening. Richard Danso came on as the second substitute for Oscar Romero. Cesar Murillo was the final sub of the evening as he came in for Thomas Roberts. North Texas SC came out on top after a grueling 90 minutes to win the inaugural USL League One Final with a scoreline of 1-0.
What a game this final was for both teams. Greenville Triumph SC cames out early attacking the backline of North Texas SC rather than sit in the low block that has earned them the lowest goals against over the season. North Texas SC did look to be caught off guard but responded well to overcome the early attack. Greenville changed their game plan throughout the game, but North Texas SC responded well to overcome Greenville’s game plan. The way North Texas SC responded in the final has been one of the biggest areas of growth that these young professionals have made over the course of the season.
“That is a Greenville team and gave us everything they had,” Eric Quill said after the match. “… We played some really good stuff, and this is going to reap massive benefits for FC Dallas and North Texas Soccer Club.”
The final encapsulated this growth that has been made all season long. There were three big styles that Greenville displayed: hard-attacking, quick counterattacks and transitions, and the high-press. North Texas did well to overcome each of these styles of play. Credit must be given to Greenville and head coach John Harkes.
“We spoke about a couple of scenarios, so it was good to go through them, what we do if we are 1-0 at halftime, or 1-0 down, how we play at that specific time,” John Harkes told the media after the match. “Again, in the second half you always need to have a Plan A, but we had a Plan B and Plan C which was good. The unfortunate part of it is you want to make a chance in a tactical sense and that depends on the personality and skill set of your players, and some of them are fading or cramping and eventually we had to change to a 3-4-3.”
Both teams did well to counter each other’s game plan through the North Texas SC players came out on top due to the quality of players and the coaching that North Texas Soccer Club has. Eric Quill has coached his team extremely well to fight through these moments even though his team is much younger than the rest of the league. North Texas SC put on a thorough and complete display that featured excellent defensive play that was able to subdue the Greenville dynamic attacks while having an effective midfield that solved numerous problems to feed the quality attack.
A trophy is not just a cap on the excellent season that North Texas SC had but rather a nod to the future and the culture that is being developed in the locker-room of North Texas SC. Eric Quill did well throughout the season to not only build a competitive team but a team that knows how to win and will do what it takes to win. The growth is evident from the first game to where the team nearly gave up a 3-0 lead to win 3-2 against Chattanooga Red Wolves to playing a hard-fought match, capitalizing on their chances, and defending that lead against a quality opponent.
“I thought in the first 15 minutes of the game we looked young, we looked nervous,” Coach Quill said about his team’s performance. “We want to play out of the back so sometimes in championship games when teams are young, it can look worrying, as the coach it looks scary. This moment for these guys to learn was huge, and those mistakes and those nervous moments they will remember these for these careers, and it will take them into a different stratosphere as a player, to know what they can change about those moments.”
“I would just say it’s not just me, it’s our staff,” Coach Quill said about his staff. “We put in a lot of work together, we put in a lot of hours and these guys work exceptionally hard and we fit each other really well. The team sees that the culture we built within our second team, to have a constant culture that says a lot about the Brecc Evans of the world, the Arturo Rodriguez’s of the world, they are the rocks in the locker room.”
The dedication to a philosophy that many might classify as a handicap speaks volumes of the quality of coaching as well as the quality of the players to respond and rise to the occasion not only in a season but in single-elimination games. With players like Ricardo Pepi who now have transitioned over to FC Dallas to gems such as Ronaldo Damus, to players getting a chance to play professional football like Arturo Rodriguez, to academy standouts like Jonathan Gomez, Kevin Bonilla, and Tanner Tessman, to players who have made the transition from the FC Dallas Academy to North Texas SC like Imanol Almaguer, this team and players have laid the foundation upon which future North Texas SC teams will be built off of and compared too.
“I’m extremely proud of this team, the organization, of what we’ve built here,” defender and captain Brecc Evans said after the match. “The USL team has had a lot of moving parts throughout the year. The semi-final to this game had two completely different lineups. That just speaks volumes to what we’ve been able to do all year. Coming in clutch in the playoffs, Arturo Rodriguez has had an amazing year. He capped it off with a goal in the final and he deserves it. I’m extremely happy, overwhelmed with emotion, and like I said proud of what we’ve been able to do.”
The club, players, coaches, and fans can all be extremely pleased with how the season went and have an idea of what North Texas SC is capable of in the future. This final highlighted much of the success that North Texas SC has had on and off the field and demonstrates the success and importance of the club for the development of players.
Congratulations to North Texas Soccer Club for becoming the Inaugural Regular Season Champions and USL League One Playoff Champions.
Featured Image: North Texas SC