North Texas Soccer Club, having established themselves as a team to reckon with after becoming inaugural USL League One Champions in 2019, currently find themselves in the bottom third of the league table.
But, hopefully, not for long.
After being away from league play for two weeks during the June international break, North Texas SC has 2 wins, 1 draw, and 2 losses. At face value, there isn’t anything eye-catching about the club’s record. You have to look to the pitch to find hidden detail within recent results.
“We put together a new team every year and it takes time to get everything going,” Quill told 3rd Degree. “Our model is not one where we are going to play the same eleven every week. It’s a revolving door. Trying to get everyone together and getting cohesion and fluidity is not easy but I feel like these guys are starting to get up for it.”
Head Coach Eric Quill, now in his third season with North Texas, has built the tactical foundation, chemistry, and cohesion for the rest of the season. While Quill and his team haven’t had as strong of a start as they desired, recent results hint that the team is on the cusp of controlling their season.
“I told the group after Richmond that even though we lost 3-2, I felt that we played some of the best soccer we played in a long time,” Eric Quill said of recent performances. “It was just decisions that shot us. It wasn’t teams that were playing through us.
Quill says their problems haven’t been a chemistry issue. “If we can just cut these errors out, we can get a lot of good results. We can score goals. If we really focus, as a group, on what we want to accomplish and achieve we can get there. I told them that I think we are so close to going on the run.”
The recent performances have shown that the players have control in their games. North Texas is consistent throughout the entire game and works to prevent their opponents from building momentum within matches.
The on-field performances are easily accessible as games are where the players make a name for themselves, fans come to watch, and media discuss and write about. Though, there is more to building a team than just kicking a ball for 90 minutes. Much of the preparation occurs off the field and within the locker room.
“We’ve been saying for a handful of weeks we are so close to turning a corner,” defender and midfielder Derek Waldeck told 3rd Degree. “We have talked a lot in the locker room about what values and characteristics we need to have as a team before we can be a championship team. We talked a lot about the work rate and consistency, the non-negotiable that we need to have as a team if we are going to continue to get results over the course of the season and turning the corner to be serious title contenders for the rest of the season.”
The narrative about North Texas has been about the team’s individual talent that it posses. The biggest struggle each year is getting the individuals to perform together as a team with cohesion. Much of it comes down to experience both as a player with North Texas and as a professional soccer player that has been in similar situations, Waldeck explained.
Oddly enough, some of the more veteran players are the youngest within the team. Gibran Rayo, Imanol Almaguer, and Alex Bruce have all spent 3 years playing within USL League One and understand nuances that come with playing in the league.
Additionally, having already been USL League One Champions and being affiliated with FC Dallas, teams across the league view matches with North Texas with more importance, regardless of table positions. While North Texas has talent and potential, other teams have experience and physicality which they try to use to their advantage.
“That’s part of the fun being a championship team but also part of the struggle,” Waldeck explained about North Texas SC having a star above the crest. “Teams are always going to give you their best game even it’s two year’s now removed.”
“The club has garnered so much respect from other teams around the league that now whenever you step out on the field whether your at home or on the road, teams are going to be up for playing you,” Waldeck continued “Everyone wants to give you their best shot because they want to say, ‘Hey, we knocked off North Texas and they are one of the best teams in the league.’ That is when we’ve had to do the most growing and understanding that [teams are going to play us harder] and coming to terms with it as a team.”
The core of the squad has now played a significant number of games together, helping to solidify the identity and cohesion of the team as a whole. North Texas has been a competitive team that controls their own game rather than responding to the play of the opponents.
North Texas SC is truly in control of its own fate.
“We are in a position where not only momentum feels huge right now but the points in the standings are really close,” stressed Waldeck. “We can thrust ourselves to a position where we may be just one point outside a playoff position going into our break the following week.”
This coming Saturday, the club has an opportunity to accomplish something they have not been able to do this year. Two consecutive wins. The timing could not be better after coming off a home win against Forward Madison FC, their El Plastico rivals, and getting the opportunity to get the second win at home against a Chattanooga Red Wolves. A side that already defeated North Texas SC in Arlington once.
“I think we are learning how to win,” Coach Quill said emphatically. “We haven’t had a back-to-back win all year. This is going to be the tell-tale sign if we can put back-to-back performances together and propel us for the rest of the year.”