After 5 hours of lightning delays, North Texas came out on top thanks to three fantastic first-half goals.
“We turned the team around and the team was stronger and stronger in the second half of the season.” Interim Head Coach John Gall said after the match, potentially his last in charge.
Six starters from the first XI of the year start were in the team’s final match of the year. Only one change from the starting XI that beat Houston Dynamo II 3-1 last week, as Nolan Norris returns to the midfield in place of Dylan Lacy.
A nervous moment from North Texas early on, as an over-eager back pass from Malachi Molina forced a short return pass back to Molina from Antonio Carrera, but the cross into space finds no one.
Nifty footwork from Andre Costa as he carried the ball forward from left back created a shooting chance for Herbert Endeley, but the result was blocked.
GOAL! Carl Sainte showed his athleticism with an incredible interception in the midfield, then a layoff pass to Endeley, who edges out an Austin defender and rips a shot bottom corner with his left boot.
A hot and humid afternoon in north Arlington, with multiple stoppages for injuries and hydration breaks.
Endeley nearly earned a penalty, after seemingly dribbling past the Austin goalie before being taken out, but the referee deemed it to be a corner. Amet Korca received a yellow due to the conversation that ensued afterward.
GOAL! Hope Avayevu scored NTXSC’s second on the night after a fake shot from Hope beats a defender then a left-footed shot curled perfectly into the far post.
North Texas held a 2-0 lead going into the first half break, for the first time in quite a while. One of their most dominant first halves by NTSC.
Immediately from the kickoff, North Texas added a third!
Great interplay between Hope Avayevu and Diego Garcia turned into a ball to Jose Mulato, who switched it to his left and fired it home to give the hosts a 3-goal lead.
Austin pulled one back in the 69′, a backheel from a cross on the end line. Immediately following, play was stopped for a lightning delay.
After a few hours, the teams came back on the field, play resumed, 6 minutes passed, and the game was once again called for a lightning delay.
7 hours after the match originally kicked off, the final 15 minutes of the match kicked off. The 15 remaining minutes passed concluded with very little fanfare, though noticeably chippy between the two sides.
Hope Avayevu earned the Man of the Match hat after a lengthy, lengthy delay. Well earned, with a stunning goal and an assist on the night.
Quotes and Takeaways
North Texas SC finished their 2023 campaign on a positive note, with a 3-1 thrashing of their green rivals. The scoreline might even flatter Austin, as North Texas truly dominated the match in what is their most complete win of Gall’s tenure.
Coach Gall said after the match “We wanted to finish the season on a good note, I know we are not where we wanted to be, obviously to the playoffs. We turned the team around and the team was stronger and stronger in the second half of the season.”
The players seem to have truly bought into the Gall way, “The guys we have on a consistent basis every day in training, they’ve enjoyed it, they’ve had fun, they’ve worked hard, and at the end of the day I think that we started to show what North Texas Soccer club is all about again, dominating performances and winning games.”
“Hope is another one I have been so proud of over the last half of the season, I have asked him to do a lot of things both on and off the ball and he’s been doing those things. I told him if you put the work in, you’re gonna get rewarded. He is putting himself in great spots, he’s scoring spectacular goals, he’s making goals for other players, and he’s such an important player for us with a fantastic end to the season.”
Man of the Match, Hope Avayevu spoke after the game, “The rain doesn’t have to change who we are. It is something that we have been working on since the beginning of the season and we wanted to end the season on a good note even though we didn’t make the playoffs. I am proud of the team.”
North Texas finished the season strong, beating both of their in-state rivals in back-to-back matches and finishing ninth out of fourteen in the western conference of MLS Next Pro. Given the difficulties faced in the middle of the season, the turnaround by the team and manager has been immense.