Ahead of the FCD’s long-awaited return to play, North Texas SC returns home to Arlington to host Chattanooga Red Wolves.
- Date: Saturday, August 8th, 2020
- Time: 8 PM CST
- Location: Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas
- How to Watch: ESPN+
This will be the fourth-ever meeting between North Texas SC and Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, following three matchups in the 2019 USL League One season.
The first matchup between these teams was also each of the side’s first-ever USL League One match as both teams opened the 2019 season against one another, with NTSC coming away with a 3-2 victory on the back of a Ricardo Pepi hat trick.
The first matchup in Chattanooga saw the Red Wolves exact some revenge on NTSC and take a 1-0 victory before NTSC was able to win the season series with a 2-0 victory a couple weeks later back in Chattanooga.
The Red Wolves narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season, finishing the season in 5th, one spot out of the top 4, and the playoffs. They have started the season solidly, coming out of the first match of the 2020 season with a 2-2 draw against Tormenta FC before hosting their first match in their new soccer-specific stadium and defeating FC Tucson 1-0 to ring in their new home with a bang. They’ll look to continue an unbeaten start to the season with a positive result in Arlington.
North Texas SC started the season with a win in their new home of Globe Life Park in Arlington, knocking off Forward Madison 2-1, before traveling to another new USL League One venue as Union Omaha hosted NTSC for their first-ever home match, in which NTSC fell 1-0. With a heavily changed roster from their championship-winning season in 2019, it isn’t surprising to see an uneven start for NTSC in year two, but they will look to get back to winning ways back at home against a familiar opponent in the Red Wolves.
North Texas SC
Another largely unchanged lineup for North Texas SC, with just a couple changes based on what happened in the last match against Union Omaha. Juan Manuel Alvarez struggled a bit against Omaha, putting in some rash challenges that could have easily culminated in the midfielder being sent off. He was replaced midway through the second half by former FCD academy player Jorge Almaguer, who gets the start against Chattanooga.
The backline sees a shakeup as well, Pedrinho made his NTSC debut off the bench last week, coming on for academy center back Grady Easton for the last 10 minutes against Omaha. He gets the start at right-back against Chattanooga, sliding Justin Che into his more typical position at the right center back.
The forward line remains unchanged after another strong performance from Beni Redzic and the remainder of the team remains unchanged as well. FC Dallas players could potentially factor in this week, with players like Eddie Munjoma, Dante Sealy, and Thomas Roberts potentially being able to come down and play, but that largely depends on the ongoing COVID situation internally with the team. I would also be completely unsurprised to see the same unchanged lineup from the first two games get the start again against Chattanooga.
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
This lineup is unchanged from the side that beat FC Tucson in Chattanooga last weekend. This is also largely the same side and formation that played Tormenta FC to a 2-2 draw on the opening weekend. Alex Mangels showed himself as one of the most solid keepers in USL League One in 2019 and is coming off his first clean sheet of the season last weekend. With that clean sheet in mind, the defense is unchanged and the midfield three retain their spots. Red Wolves just announced a loan deal for Nashville SC midfielder Tanner Dieterich, but it seems unlikely that he will already earn a place in the starting lineup. Greg Hurst is the man to watch in the front three as he has scored all three of Chattanooga’s goals in 2020 thus far.
Three Keys to the Match
1) David Rodriguez’s Playmaking
Chattanooga, especially playing away from home, are going to defend deep and take their chances on the counter. The Red Wolves rank near the bottom of the pack in total passes and generally play a direct style when getting forward. As a result, they’ll be very compact in defense and will try to make it difficult to play between the lines, which is where David Rodriguez’s playmaking will come into play. Rodriguez is still finding his feet as the primary playmaker for North Texas SC as he attempts to replicate what his brother Arturo was able to do so well in 2019. NTSC will dominate the ball against the Red Wolves but it will be up to Rodriguez to play between the lines and break through the backline to create scoring opportunities.
2) Keep Greg Hurst in check
Signed in the second half of the 2019 season, in which he made 9 appearances and scored twice, Hurst has scored all 3 of Chattanooga’s goals in 2020 so far and is currently tied with Greenville’s Jake Keegan as USL League One’s leading scorer. The 23-year-old Scottish forward started on the wing in Chattanooga’s last match against FC Tucson and will look to come inside to create goal-scoring opportunities.
The North Texas SC fullbacks will need to be on their top defensive game to keep Hurst in check and halt his scoring streak.
3) FC Dallas players?
On a media call earlier this week, FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez mentioned that FC Dallas players who have antibodies after having recovered from COVID-19 may be able to move down and play with North Texas.
Luchi says for the most part they can't do interaction between NTX and FCD… but players with Antibodies *may* have some flexibility there… so maybe we might see some FCD w/NTX this week, TBD.
NTX and FCD have their testing aligned. Club being careful to protect bubbles.
— 3rd Degree (@3rdDegreeNet) August 5, 2020
In the first two matches of the season, only one player, backup goalkeeper Carlos Avilez, made the North Texas SC squad, and that was on the bench. In 2019, players coming down from the first team was a regularity, but with COVID, each team has essentially been in their own separate bubble, but obviously, any player who has already had COVID and recovered and now has antibodies would be safe to move down and play with North Texas.
Of course, we don’t have much of an idea of who those players are, but this may be the first week where we see some movement down from the first team to play with North Texas, which is something that could obviously have a major impact on North Texas and their level. Just one or two players from the first team could completely turn the game on its head, even if they are only used as a sub.
Will North Texas SC get back to winning ways back home in Arlington?
Featured Image: North Texas SC/Jack Wallace