After having a weekend off, North Texas Soccer Club hosted Greenville Triumph SC in a match between the only two USL League One champions. It was a dominant performance for North Texas SC after scoring a hattrick of goals and shutting out Greenville 3-0.
With FC Dallas still having one more before returning the league play, Edwin Cerrillo and Nkosi Tafari made their 2021 debuts alongside Kalil ElMedkhar as the three FC Dallas players in the starting lineup.
North Texas SC got the start they wanted against the top team in the league after Gibran Rayo capitalized on a loose ball in the box to score the opening goal in the 6th minute.
North Texas SC continued with the strong start and Kalil ElMedkhar doubled the lead with well struck shot in the 28th minute. Edwin Cerrillo was credited with an assist.
Nkosi Tafari made it all a hat-trick of goals for North Texas SC, after the break, thanks to Edwin Cerrillo’s second assist of the game in the 49th minute.
Thibaut Jacquel and Alisson were the first changes for North Texas SC replacing Alex Bruce and Kalil ElMedkhar in the 65th minute.
Kazu and Collin Smith made their appearances in the game for Nkosi Tafari and Barnard Kamungo, respectively, in the 80th minute.
Hope Avayevu was the final substitute after replacing Gibran Rayo in the 89th minute.
Edwin Cerrillo was shown a red-card in the final moments of the game, earning a second yellow card.
North Texas SC secured the win and 3-points shutting-out Greenville Triumph SC 3-0.
Thoughts & Takeaways
North Texas SC has not been a directly copy of FC Dallas in 2021, for better or for worse. Aside from the formation and tactical difference, one of the most interesting parts of the North Texas SC game plan is the role that the midfield trio function both in the attack and defense.
“When I play next to Edwin [Cerrillo] and Gibran [Rayo], guys that I’ve grown up playing with in the academy, it makes it easier,” Almaguer said about playing in the midfield. “Just playing in front of Edwin, I know that I have good support behind me and he can get the second balls to play me or vice versa.”
Edwin Cerrillo, who at the beginning of 2021 was in big contention to be the starting “6” for FC Dallas, carried out the same role against Greenville. This, interestingly, saw Imanol Almaguer play just higher than Cerrillo which created two anchor points for the club’s shape.
“We went to a mid-block shape,” Eric Quill told 3rd Degree. “We have been pressing opponents and nobody really tries to play like this. They try to launch it behind us but they can’t. We wanted to take the space behind away from Greenville to make them uncomfortable.”
The flexibility that that Imanol Almaguer brings to the team allows Cerrillo to feature as the main midfielder just in front of the backline. If Cerrillo continues to play with North Texas SC in 2021, viewers could get a glimpse into the type of player and role that FC Dallas has in mind for the homegrown player.
As North Texas SC heads into the middle of the 2021 season, seeing how the players controlled the game from the first whistle will be key to the club having successful matches throughout the rest of the season.
“I am proud of that performance as the guys have been working tirelessly for that performance,” Quill said. “We have been working hard defensively and really try to pound home the fact that we have to respect the ball and they did that from the start of the game to the end. We completed our goals tonight which is nice.”
Much of the narrative at the beginning of the season was players getting acclimated to each other in competitive minutes. The strong start, along with the inclusion of three impactful FC Dallas players, is indicative of the growth that the team has made when playing as a unit.
The ability to see out games and managing a lead has be a trouble point for the team since the club’s inception.
Along with the chemistry growth the team has made, North Texas SC has made strides in their game management. From having high and low moments, to responding after conceding, to control the game for the full 90 minutes, there’s plenty that the club has mentally grown since the start of the season.
“They, [Greenville Triumph SC], don’t give up three goals so this shows how well the game-plan and transitions were,” Coach Quill said. “Hopefully this springboards us into a path forward and on a run. This is exciting and it feels good but we have a lot of work to do.”
Overall, playing a well-managed game against, arguably, the best team in USL League One is a moment that the club can be proud of. It’s now a matter of the young professionals taking the momentum built in this game and carrying it forward throughout the rest of the season.
North Texas SC has 10 points through 7 games and sits in 8th place. North Texas SC will stay home as FC Tucson visits on Saturday, June 19th at 7:30 PM.