After failing to secure the extra point in the shootout 6 times in 2023, North Texas rallied after conceding a late equalizer to win the shootout 8-7.
Three of four on the backline remained the same from the last match with Henri Santos returning and inheriting the armband on the night. Anthony Ramirez earned another start out wide with Pablo Torre through the middle. Hope Avayuevu returned to the bench after an injury kept him away for more than a month.
Early on, Antonio Carrera stretched to make a great save to deny an early goal from the visitors.
Much of the early first half was played in the midfield, as LAFC 2 had the larger share of possession but with little to show for it.
Just before the end of the first half, Pablo Torre nearly found the breakthrough for the home side as Theo Ferreira slipped him in behind but his near post shot hits the outside of the post.
The teams went into the halftime break with the deadlock waiting to be broken, and very little split between the two teams.
Hope Avayevu was substituted on at halftime, replacing Yeicar Perlaza on the wing.
North Texas took the lead soon after Hope’s arrival, as he chipped a perfect pass over the LA backline and into the path of rushing Diego Garcia who cannoned it hope for the lead early in the second half.
With 10 minutes left, LAFC 2’s pressure paid off, as a Caicedo pass was intercepted and quickly played into the box, then finished near post past Carrera.
North Texas responded quickly, as a perfectly weighted through ball from Anthony Ramirez found Pablo Torre through into the box, who made no mistake with the finish to restore the one-goal advantage to the home side.
Soon after a goal-saving deflection by Caicedo led to a corner for LAFC 2, the attempted header clear found an opposing foot, and a wonder strike against a screened Carrera equalized the game for the visitors.
With only seconds remaining in extra time, the last-minute strike sealed the draw, and the extra point kicks from the spot remained to decide the winner of the extra point.
Diego Hernandez’ last NTSC touch before leaving for Furman was a perfectly placed penalty kick. His kick was followed soon by kicks from Andre Costa, Anthony Ramirez, Tomas Pondeca, Pablo Torre, Henri Santos, Hope Avayevu, and finally by Tyshawn Rose.
Every NTSC player scored their penalty in a back-and-forth shootout that featured the opposing goalie taking the fifth kick and scoring it. After seeing 7 very well-taken penalties find the net, Carrera dove to his right and smothered the eighth, earning North Texas the extra point on the night.
Thoughts and Takeaways
The MLS Next Pro players have all been very cool and collected with their penalties, often going side-netting or roofed. Poorly taken penalties are few and far between.
Coach Cano prepared the team well for this match, as the opposing goals came from a mental mistake and a fortuitous strike, as LAFC2 was unable to create despite having the possession advantage.
“We know that LAFC is a team that loves the ball… we started with a kind of pressing and we modified a little bit.” Remarked Coach Cano after the match. “I am very happy with Pablo [Torre], he played the full 90 and scored a goal”.
Regarding the return of Hope Avayevu, “Hope was training very hard the last few weeks and we were controlling him for minutes. The plan is we decide to finish with hope for his energy. He had no fear to do the 1v1s.”
Pablo’s very well-taken goal showed plenty of poise, today since I woke up I felt like I was gonna score” the young attacker stated after the match.
Anthony Ramirez performed well again and notched an assist as well as displaying dynamic passing throughout the match.
North Texas will look for 3 points on the road next Sunday versus the Tacoma Defiance.