North Texas SC started their season and home opener with a win against “El Plastico” rival Forward Madison FC on Saturday night. Despite COVID-19, North Texas SC provided fans both able to attend and those who viewed virtually a first glimpse into what is to come for the rest of the year.
A win – and three points in the league standings – is certainly how Eric Quill and NTX fans would’ve wanted the season to start.
There was already plenty of discussion even before the ball was kicked off with 5 FC Dallas Academy players listed to the gameday roster: Grady Easton (U19), Justin Che (U19), and Beni Redzic (U19) making the starting eleven and Colin Smith (U19) and Diego Hernandez (U17) on the bench.
In a very similar fashion to Luchi Gonzalez’s FC Dallas, Eric Quill had his players build the ball along the back-line and looked to play the ball forward down the flanks and look for space between Forward Madison’s lines. Both Derek Waldeck and Justin Che got high up the field making quick passing combinations with their respective wingers.
Play through the middle found little success when it came to shot creation but the midfield trio did well connect the offense and defense during the transition phases.
Forward Madison FC looked to contain any forward advancements that North Texas SC made by defending deep in a low block. The Flamingos wanted to attack on the counter as soon as possession was made. Quick passing and shooting did make the visitors’ attack threatening when near North Texas SC’s box.
It only took 12 minutes for North Texas SC to score as Beni Redzic scored on his debut after dribbling the ball from out wide into the box and taking a shot that deflected off a Forward Madison FC player, putting goalkeeper Philipp Marceta off balance and unable to stop the ball.
Forward Madison FC did not want to go into the half without having a least some fighting chance in the match. Wojciech Woscik, after receiving a cross from Paulo Junior, slotted the ball past North Texas SC goalkeeper Luiz Zamudio to make the score level. The first half ended with both teams each having scored a goal.
North Texas SC started the second half with as the more dominant side when it came to possession (finishing the game with 71.2% possession to Forward Madison’s 28.8%). The home side didn’t change their setup and focused on being patient in their buildup play and while looking to play between space.
Ronaldo Damus, the 2019 leading goalscorer in USL League One, opening his goal-scoring account after sneaking the ball past Marceta after receiving a well place cross by Justin Che. North Texas SC regained the lead and became more confident in their ability to secure three points.
Forward Madison FC made their first substitution of the match by bringing in Jamael Cox for Jalen Crisler as the Flamingos looked to even up the game. The Flamingos also brought in Alex Monis and Louis Bennett for Paulo Jr. and Don Smart respectively.
North Texas SC brought in Gibran Rayo for Juan Manuel Alvarez and Beni Redzic made way for Collin Smith. The final substitution for Eric Quill was David Rodriguez for Diego Hernandez.
Thoughts and Takeaways
Build Up Play
It’s been said many times that the goal of North Texas SC is to develop talent for FC Dallas and make the transition to the first team as painless as possible. FC Dallas loves to build up from their backline and that North Texas SC demonstrated the same against Forward Madison FC. Derek Waldeck and Justin Che both got high up the first and made efforts to not only combine with their attacking teammates but also look for opportunities to play the ball to the interior.
“It’s the philosophy right?” Head Coach Eric Quill said about North Texas SC’s buildup play. “Lots of new faces, but I think they were grasping the concepts and our confidence in them and that it’s okay to mistakes in the build-out. We really tried to work a lot on it in the short time that we had to go eleven-v-eleven. I don’t think that they [Forward Madison FC] pressed us with any sort of velocity for a long period of time and they sorta settled for our center-backs to dictate the game.”
Lamar Batista and Grady Easton helped dictate the speed at which the ball was played out from the back and looked to play the ball forward. Grady Easton wasn’t afraid to carry the ball forward to bypass the first defensive line of the Flamingos.
While there was plenty of emphasis on playing down the flanks, the midfield trio did impact the success that North Texas SC had going forward and how quick they were to shut down Forward Madison defensively. Play through the middle wasn’t as clean as some would’ve have hoped but for the first game of the season, there is plenty to work on going forward.
Juan Manuel Alvarez and David Rodriguez found themselves present in nearly every spot of the field trying to connect the defense with the attack and bring the ball forward to create threatening chances. This fluidity between the two players did cause them to leave gaps in the center of the field. These gaps made removed options for the wide players to send the ball to the interior.
“Juan [Manuel-Alvarez] was playing really deep with Allison in the first half and we were playing five-v-two and there was a reason for it,” Coach Quill said about the change in the midfield at half-time. “They [Forward Madison FC] weren’t pressing us and we wanted Juan to take a higher positioning beyond lines along with David [Rodriguez].”
“So once they started playing in that pocket and that line beyond the midfield, and [we got] in between their back [line], we just found some good pockets and fired through the lines,” Quill elaborated. “We just had a better understanding and better confidence to fire balls in that area of the field, and we had quick ideas. Once you go in there, it opens up the wide areas so much more.”
Allison was tasked with being the ‘6’ and trying to intercept and thwart the Flamingos attacks. Forward Madison did well to play with speed and it was evident in their passing and counter-attacks. While this did catch the North Texas defense in awkward spots Allison did well to get a foot in and physically made his presence aware. Allison finished the game with 2 tackles and 3 interceptions.
A win is always a great way to start the new season. With new players on the field and some coming back from injuries, Eric Quill will look to keep his team competitive and with areas to improve, fans can expect an exciting season for North Texas SC in 2020.
North Texas will be on the road for their next game as they face League One newcomers, Union Omaha on Saturday, August 1st at 7:00 PM.