Eyecatching saves from Julian Eyestone, including a 90th-minute penalty save, propelled North Texas to victory on Sunday as an early Hope Avayevu goal was enough for all 3 points against LAFC 2 in both clubs’ 2023 MLS Next Pro opener.
“[There’s] not much better” than a debut win, said new North Texas SC Manager Javier Cano after the match “it was almost a heart attack at the end but I feel very proud of the players”.
Duke University commit, Julian Eyestone, gets the nod in net as Antonio Carrera is away with USYMT duty. The entire NTSC backline made their MLS Next Pro debuts, as Tyshawn Rose, Henri Santos, Amet Korca, and Herbert Endeley all started. FC Dallas signees Bernard Kamungo and Jose Mulato join them in the starting XI.
North Texas begins the match with their foot on the gas, and after only 9 minutes found the breakthrough. Kamungo found Hope Avayevu in acres of space inside the penalty box, who makes no mistake and tucks the ball away to give North Texas the early lead, as the 2022 dynamic duo unites again for North Texas.
After the early lead, all fans’ focus turned to Eyestone, who made great saves, forced attackers into difficult scenarios, and smothered all possible chances. Chief among them being a sprawling save to deny a wide-open shot from an LAFC 2 player at close range.
At the half, LAFC 2 led the game on shots, but could not find a way past the young Eyestone.
5 minutes into the second half LAFC 2’s Noah Dollenmayer denies Diego Garcia a run-in behind and is shown a second yellow card and an early shower. LAFC 2 would have to face the remaining 40 minutes of action a man down.
North Texas is able to make space in transition, but mazy runs from Kamungo, Hope, and Tyshawn Rose all ended by being taken down entering open space, and earning their opponent a yellow card. But the team was unable to trouble the opposing keeper.
Rose was a standout at left back, able to pass through the midfield and bypass many LAFC 2 defenders. Unfortunately in the 89th minute, he is caught holding an opponent’s arm in the box and 10-Man LAFC 2 are given new life from the penalty spot…
Until Eyestone saves it! The young shot-stopper gave the shooter a feint to his right, but dove left to deny the LAFC 2 from 12 yards.
Eyestone won man of the match honors, as his heroic goalkeeping gave North Texas SC a clean sheet and all 3 points.
Quotes and Takeaways
After the match, Coach Javier Cano remarked on his outfield talents “We can highlight the effort from Hope today, our star player. [He] had the first goal and maintained us in the second half. [Hope is] a silent leader, I’m very happy with his performance today”
Hope’s effort on the left side was integral for North Texas, as was left back Tyshawn Rose, an FC Dallas Superdraft selection from December.
“He did really good… he is a guy that can give us a lot of extra points” Cano said on his left back after the match.
“Feels great starting off the year right,” said a jubilant Eyestone after his last-minute penalty save, “I am just thinking about what I have seen this guy do during the match then thinking I know I am saving this ball”
Eyestone stood on his head throughout the match, not only with his saves but often with some silky distribution. A well-earned Man of the Match cowboy hat for the young shot-stopper.
North Texas SC continue their season on the road in Los Angeles, as they take on the Galaxy 2 squad next week before returning to Choctaw Stadium for their home opener on April 9th.
Great feeling indeed. Keep it up huys!