Zach Loyd and Michel are familiar names locally. Michel a master of set pieces under Schellas Hyndman and Oscar Pareja, before serving on the coaching staff of North Texas SC since its inception. Loyd, a defensive mainstay, from a rookie campaign that included an MLS Cup appearance until the double-winning 2016 season.
The pair played all 120 minutes and each scored penalties as FC Dallas lost a semifinal shootout to Philadelphia in 2014. Michel would leave at the end of the 2015 season, while Loyd’s own FC Dallas tenure effectively ended with a concussion sustained in a fourth round win over OKC Energy in 2016.
Their paths crossed again with Michel’s FORO SC hosting Tenfifteen FC, the team run by former national teamers Casey and Zach Loyd.
“It’s always a pleasure to see guys that you’ve played with, where you’ve become friends,” said FORO SC coach Michel. “I thought it was a great game in that they came well prepared, very organized defensively in the center. We tried to play our game, keeping possession and creating chances up top. Unfortunately we didn’t create much today, we had a lot of possession. As we tell our players, we need to turn this possession into chances.”
The game started late as players were forced to tape up the goal nets at the rearranged venue, Eagle Stadium in Carrollton, on Sunday evening.
Tenfifteen could have had a lead in the opening minute as Walters Che raced on to a lofted ball into the box. One-on-one with Gonzalo Santa Martinez, Che opted to try and side-foot the ball over the Spaniard but cleared the bar with an overpowered attempt.
FORO SC soon began to take control of the midfield, spreading wide through Tendai Jirira and Juan Ramirez. Seven-year Dallas Sidekicks veteran Kristian Quintana enjoyed a higher role than often seen with the Sidekicks or other local sides, backed up by Rio Ramirez stepping out of defense.
Tenfifteen looked well organized at the back. Tyler Lee putting in a master class alongside Blake Redus in the middle. Their best outlet into the attack seemed to be Suriel Arauz on the left.
Juan Ramirez was proving himself a handful for FORO, and created a good opportunity in the 24th minute, chipping the ball into the path of Hector Romero. The former Texas United forward struck low but his shot was pushed around the post by Parth Thapa. The Nepali was a little erratic at times, but produced a couple of fantastic stops throughout the game, most notably with a heroic full-body block at the feet of Moiad Ankir in the second half.
Romero would have another close call in first half stoppage time. Jirira took a quick throw after his challenge forced Heritage Davies to put the ball out of play. Romero received the ball away from goal, turning and wrapping his foot around the 15-yard shot, but he narrowly missed the top right corner as the two sides remained scoreless at the break.
The second half was far more cagey as that midfield and defense superiority broke the game down. The first real opportunity came ten minutes in and it was Che again with the chance. This time he got clear of the FORO defense to get on the end of a Tyler Lee free kick from the midfield, but his header went comfortably wide. Che did well to get anything on the ball, but it wasn’t the clean contact he would have liked.
Lee’s performance didn’t warrant what happened soon after as FORO SC took a 58th minute lead. Moiad Ankir found Juan Ramirez down the right in space. Ramirez raced to the endline under pressure, cutting back on to his left foot to cross in. The cross lacked any bite, but Lee managed to deflect it in from inside the six yard box. The Cayman Islands international seemed to be unsighted by a missed defensive header with no FORO players attacking the ball.
Lee’s largely impressive performance also extended to the ball in his hands as a 25 yard throw in caused chaos in the FORO box. Lee’s delivery was virtually under the crossbar, forcing Martinez to punch with several players challenging to get the touch that would make for a legal goal.
Tenfifteen FC’s what-could-have-been moment came in 78th minute after Suriel Arauz released Thierry Assamoi down the left. Ivorian, Assamoi, cut inside a defender with a Cruyff turn. Attempting to locate a team mate at the back post, Assamoi drove the ball low across goal only for Jirira to squeeze away a clearance. Assamoi had looked to get the ball back to his left, making the cross, where perhaps opening his hips and attempting a right-footed shot may have leveled the game or at least forced a dangerous situation.
As the clock ticked on, both sides pushed on. It seemed strange that FORO SC didn’t just spread the ball around and kill the game. Perhaps that was just as well as the ball was played back from the corner to Hector Romero in the third minute of stoppage time. Romero had tried to find his range throughout the game, but made no mistake bending the ball inside Thapa’s far post to seal their place in the third round of qualifying for the 2024 US Open Cup.
“We try from the first minute to the last minute to score,” said Michel. “We didn’t create much but the mentality is always to score. Tenfifteen almost scored towards the end. It’s a knockout. If you lose, you’re out. They came all the way, they tried to do everything they could, it was a great game.”
A rematch in the UPSL Texas North division was due to take place in three weeks time on October 21, but FORO SC will now move on to a third qualifying round game that weekend. FORO is the fourth Texas team to make the penultimate qualifying round, and the only North Texas representative.