North Texas SC grabs late goal, wins shootout versus The Town FC

After more than 45 minutes of playing down a man, North Texas SC and Diego Garcia equalized deep into stoppage time versus The Town FC, then went on to take the extra point in penalties. 5-4.

“By heck, they performed today,” Head Coach John Gall remarked on his team after the match.

The Game

North Texas entered the match with 3 points, despite their only results being two draws, due to their penalty shootout win versus Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 in their last match. North Texas struggled in the penalty shootouts in 2023, tied for most losses from the spot at 7. Only one goal in the 180 minutes prior to this match as well has meant a slow offensive start for North Texas as well.

2024 captain Nico Gordon started the match at right back, with Nolan Norris making a return in his no. 6 role. Diego Pepi led the forward line with Anthony Ramirez and Malik Henry-Scott on his flanks. NTSC’s opponent, The Town FC, was previously known as San Jose Earthquakes II.

North Texas SC starting XI vs The Town, April 7, 2024.
North Texas SC starting XI vs The Town, April 7, 2024.

Diego Pepi started on the front foot for North Texas, having had the first of the match just 140 seconds after play began, and constantly challenged The Town back line with runs in behind.

10 minutes into the match, play was halted after NTSC Captain Nico Gordon went down his an apparent head injury after his face took the brunt of an attempted flick-on header. Soon after Gordon returned to the ground and was subbed out for debutant Daniel Baren soon after. Coach John Gall assured Gordon is okay after the match “it is just a bruised eye, he’ll be fine.”

After the majority of the first half was spent in midfield battles, The Town FC broke open the scoring at the half-hour mark, with an outside-the-boot pass breaking open the North Texas backline for Will Richmond, who passed across the 6-yard box to an unmarked attacked who slid the ball home.

7 minutes after conceding, North Texas’ first big chance of the match presented itself, as Daniel Baran curled a beautiful pass to an unmarked Pepi, but the angle was against Pepi as the keeper was able to make the stop.

5 minutes into first-half stoppage time, a long ball is cleared by Abdoul Zanne, who rose into the air to knee the ball away from danger. Unfortunately, he caught the face of Anthony Edward in doing so, and after much deliberation by the referee, was shown a red card for the challenge.

North Texas went into the halftime break down a goal and down a man. “The talk was about heart and who wants it more,” Goalkeeper Michael Collodi remarked on the halftime team talk after the match.

Gall did not want his team to lose their aggression, opting for a 4-3-2 formation after halftime.

After an early curled effort by Garcia, both sides go silent for much of the second half, as the match grinds away with neither side willing to budge. Despite being down a man, North Texas remained resilient on defense, denying their opponents the ability to double their score and put the game out of reach.

In the 97th minute, and in full desperation mode for North Texas, Goalkeeper Michael Collodi was nearly 15 yards into the opposing half when he sent a long ball deep into the penalty box, Norris stretched out and was able to redirect it into the six-yard box, and Garcia was there to slot home the equalizer for NTSC!

After a full 90 minutes on each of their legs, including 45 minutes down a man, midfielders Norris and Garcia were able to find an extra ounce in their systems to earn a point for North Texas at home and give them the opportunity for a second point in the shootout.

After each side matched the other with goals in the first three rounds of the PK shootout, a weak effort from Garcia set The Town up in pole position for the extra point. With young fans chanting his name and the game in the balance, Collodi dove to his right and saved the would-be game-winning penalty by The Town, pushing the shootout to sudden death!

Turner Humphrey‘s miss put the pressure back on Collodi, who stayed big in the center of the goal to deny The Town a winning PK yet again. After Lautaro Taboada put his shot from the spot away neatly, eyes turned yet again to Collodi.

Two in a row was not enough for the young keeper, as he denied The Town yet again with a diving save to his right to earn the extra point for North Texas SC.

Post Match.

“In difficult situations, you start to see the character of people more than when it is easy. We dug deep today, and it is a testament to the players” Remarked Coach Gall after the match.

North Texas had an uphill battle in the match, with stopping an attack for a full half down a man being no easy task, much less tallying themselves. They showed fight and grit and were rewarded in the end.

“I have known Michael [Collodi] for a long time, he’s a competitor, He’ll run through a brick wall for the team” Gall echoed the tenacity of the young keeper after the match.

Collodi himself was quiet about the scene behind his penalty heroics but did assure that “there is prep” weekly for these situations.

North Texas will continue their quest for a regulation win next week, at home versus Tacoma Defiance on Sunday, April 14th.

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