North Texas SC came back from a two-goal deficit to earn a point against Houston Dynamo 2. A brace from Jose Mulato and fantastic fullback play from Collin Smith were key to the comeback draw as Houston sealed the extra point with a 5-4 shootout result to overtake North Texas in the MLS NEXT Pro standings. Former SMU Mustang Talen Maples sealed the shootout win after Paul Amadume missed the home side’s sixth effort.
A notable absence from the North Texas roster was Hope Aveyevu, as the midfielder was suspended after being shown two yellow cards in their most recent matchup with San Jose. In his place, 16-year-old Alejandro Urzua got his first start for North Texas.
Urzua’s fellow U-17 Nolan Norris dropped to the bench with Lucas Bartlett returning from injury in the center of defense. Bernard Kamungo, Blaine Ferri, and Jose Mulato all returned to the starting lineup in the front three.
Dynamo Dos found an opener inside the first five minutes, as an Antonio Carrera clearance was collected in front of the midfield. The ball was played through to Isaiah LaFlore, who slotted past Carrera from a tight angle.
A few minutes later Bernard Kamungo had the first chance of the game for North Texas, as Blaine Ferri weighted a perfect through ball for the winger. Unfortunately his shot was easily dealt with by Xavier Valdes in the Houston net.
Pa-Modou Kah‘s men were energetic after Houston went ahead, with a strong press to keep possession and movement. That created two chances for Collin Smith, both narrowly saved by Houston.
Santi Ferreira was whistled for a penalty in the 23rd minute. Carrera guessed the right way on the spot kick but the shot from David Palomino was just out of reach to give Houston a 2-0 advantage on just their second shot of the night.
Coach Pa opted for an early change in an effort to recover the score line, with Tomas Lacerda replacing Ferreira in the North Texas midfield after 35 minutes.
Just moments later, Jose Mulato towered above the Houston defense to pull NTX within a goal. The header came from six yards out off a Blaine Ferri corner kick.
The North Texas players may well have felt the chance to draw level was unfairly snatched away from them late in the half. Lacerda saw a strike from distance hit the outstretched arm of one of the visiting players in the area, but the referee was not interested in pointing to the spot.
LaFlore got his second of the night just 65 seconds into the second half, as he lost his marker at the back post and fired home a cross after some fantastic work by Kyle Edwards down the Houston right side.
The early substitute, Lacerda, brought North Texas back into the the game with a neat front-post volley on a corner from Bernie Kamungo. The Portuguese managed to steer his shot through traffic to bring the defecit down two one goal with 25 minutes to play.
Mulato levelled the score six minutes from time. A low cross from Collin Smith somehow evaded the Houston defense, finding Mulato’s run to the penalty spot. The Bayern World forward struck low beyond the keeper to tie the game.
Mulato was left frustrated in the dying moments after firstly being booked for dissent while disputing an offside call, then had a strong appeal for another handball inside the box as his stoppage time shot appeared to hit the arm of a Houston player.
Mulato’s frustration only grew in the penalty shootout, as his effort missed the target. D’Allesandro Herrera failed to capitalize on the third round miss with one of his own as the Texas rivals sent the shootout to sudden death before Maples found a winner in the sixth round.
Kah spoke of North Texas’ “fantastic character” in eliminating the two goal deficit in what he referred to as a great advert for MLS NEXT Pro.
The result leaves North Texas SC third in the Western Conference, ahead of Tacoma Defiance on games won.
Thoughts and Takeaways
Collin Smith has been seen as a long shot to follow in Bryan Reynolds’ footsteps as a converted winger to break into the FC Dallas team, but Pa-Modou Kah is thoroughly impressed by the 18-year-old right back’s progress.
“Collin’s growth for me has been immense,” said Kah. “He’s been a student of the game, he’s learning, and he’s understanding the game… He regrouped with an assist and every day he is looking at how to get better.”
After a difficult start for North Texas, Smith’s assist for the equalizer was his second in as many games.
“Looking back on it, I believe I had a slow start, we could have gotten a better start…” said Smith. “Heart, effort, all of it should be there, and it is mandatory to have that.
“[Playing further up] helps me a lot, the team asks me to be an attacking fullback… Making sure I am in the right place to find assists and be in the right spot like I was tonight.”