North Texas SC’s third season in USL League One kicks off on Saturday, April 24th against Fort Lauderdale CF. This week we will take a look at three players to watch throughout NTSC’s 2021 season.
Hope Kodzo Avayevu
Any player wearing the number 10 shirt is going to be one to watch, especially when that player is only 18 years old. Hope, a Ghanaian attacking midfielder, was a stand out performer in the 2019 Dallas Cup with his Ghanaian club Bechem United FC. He was so impressive that, as a 16 year old, FC Dallas asked him to stick around and train with the academy (and the first team at times). In 2020, the pandemic forced him to go back to his home country, but as soon as he turned 18, Dallas was back on the table and he was signed to a deal with North Texas SC. Even the contract he signed speaks to how enamored the club is with Hope as he signed a three-year guaranteed deal with two club option years, something that you would expect to see for a promising homegrown signing with the first team rather than an international signing with North Texas SC, who typically structures contracts with one guaranteed year and one club option year.
As is the case with a lot of North Texas SC’s signings, there’s not a lot of easily accessible footage of Hope. What is easily found is a 16 second clip on YouTube titled “10 May 2019” in which Hope essentially destroys three defenders with apparent ease to create an attacking chance for his team. It is a tiny snippet that is almost two years old but if Hope can bring that to North Texas SC in 2021, he’ll be playing for the first team before he knows it.
Open tryouts for professional soccer clubs are usually regarded as cash grabs by the club, an easy way to get a little bit of money to the club, get the club’s name out there, and maybe, just maybe, unearth a player that the coaching staff may call back in for a more formal closed tryout. It certainly is not very common for a player to go from an open tryout to being the projected starter for the club, but that is what has happened with 19 year old Tanzania-born winger Bernard Kamungo. Kamungo’s story has been wonderfully covered by Jon Arnold for The Striker Texas, but long story short, after moving from Tanzania to Abilene as a teenager, Kamungo excelled at the high school level for Abilene High but didn’t feel confident that his career would move beyond that. His brother, however, believed in Bernard and pushed him to go to open tryouts with North Texas SC, where he instantly impressed head coach Eric Quill and was quickly signed to a contract with NTSC.
Other than a high school clip in which Bernard easily looks a class above his competition, there isn’t much out there to see of Bernard’s skills, but he isn’t a player to watch simply because he has such a compelling story. NTSC isn’t signing players because of feel-good stories, they are signing players because they see a potential to move into the first team or sell that player on to another team. Bernard does not look like he is going to be a fringe player with NTSC, he has been given the number 7 shirt and seems likely to be in the starting lineup when NTSC lines up for the first time in 2021. We will see if the unlikely feel good story turns into real production for a professional club this season.
Any academy player called up
Alright, I’ll admit this one is a bit of a cop out. In my defense, there has been a lot of roster turnover for North Texas SC going from 2020 to 2021 and there are quite a few players that will be interesting to watch this season including FC Dallas draft picks Thibaut Jacquel and Colin Shutler, international signings JJ Parra, Kazu Ferreira and Alejandro Viniegra as well as keeping an eye on any FC Dallas players that come down to play with North Texas SC to get some minutes.
But I wanted to reserve this space to talk about the other part of a North Texas SC game day squad: the FC Dallas academy players. North Texas SC does not carry a very large main roster, at any given time, NTSC is likely to have no more than maybe 15 players or so actually signed to North Texas contracts. This is to make room for any first team players that need minutes to drop down and play in USL League One and also to allow for non-contracted FC Dallas academy players that are excelling at the academy level to get some time in a professional environment and play professional minutes against grown men who are fighting tooth and nail to continue their professional careers. There are a number of academy players who are likely to see some minutes with NTSC in 2021, including Diego Hernandez, who made his professional debut as a 15 year old in 2020 and Ty Reynolds, Bryan’s brother, who spent some time on trial with Charleston Battery over the preseason. Perhaps most notable and most intriguing out of the academy is 15 year old Matthew Corcoran, a defensive midfielder who has been impressing FC Dallas staff and outside scouts for a couple years now and is now looking to make a push out of youth soccer and see some professional minutes.
There are always opportunities for academy players with North Texas SC. Any time you see a lineup or game day roster that has a player that isn’t on the main North Texas roster or isn’t on FC Dallas’ first team squad, that is a player to keep an eye on for that game and going forward.
Who are you most excited to watch play for North Texas SC in 2021? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: North Texas SC