After a two-game road trip that yielded no points, North Texas Soccer Club returned home and hosted their El Plastico rivals Forward Madison FC on Saturday night at Globe Life Park.
Competing for viewers between the Copa America final and the next-door neighbors Mexico starting their Gold Cup campaign, North Texas SC defeated their El Plastico rivals in a goal-filled match, 4-1.
Richard Sanchez made his first start since North Texas SC hosted Toronto FC II at home on May 29th. Freddy Vargas made his North Texas debut, as one of 4 FC Dallas players in the starting XI, along with Eddie Munjoma, Collin Smith, and Kalil ElMedkhar.
North Texas got the dream start with an early goal from Gibran Rayo who was assisted by a Freddy Vargas cross from the left of the field in the 2nd minute.
It didn’t take long for Eddie Munjoma to give North Texas the second goal of the game after Kalil ElMedkhar received the ball just outside of the box and played a pass for Munjoma with space at the penalty spot.
After half-time, Bernard Kamungo was replaced for Kazu.
Mickey Maldonado and Nicky Hernandez replaced Blaine Ferrie and Collin Smith in the 61st minute.
The third goal came after North Texas won the ball in their own box and a series of quick passing allowed Gibran Rayo to play the ball to Kazu, getting his second goal in two games in the 65th minute.
Kazu wasn’t done and demonstrated his comfort as a winger by getting a second goal to give North Texas a 4-goal lead in the 74th minute.
Freddy Vargas’ debut came to an end after being substituted for Thibaut Jacquel in the 76th minute.
The clean sheet was not meant to be for North Texas as Jake Keegan found the back of the net in the 81st minute.
Derek Waldeck was the final sub for North Texas SC, replacing Gibran Rayo in the 84th.
In a much-needed win, North Texas SC got the win, 4-1.
Thoughts & Takeaways
North Texas has been a team that knows how to respond in games. Even after conceding, the players show urgency and intensity to score and regain the lead.
“I thought we started really strong with energy and that’s what I think we’ve been lacking in the last few games,” Nicky Hernandez said of the start of the game. “Once that energy came, it just clicked. Even though we have a revolving roster, that energy brought everyone together and that was the beauty of today’s performance.”
The in-game response is good but Eric Quill has wanted his team to score first and control the game early on. This is exactly what his team did by getting two quick early goals. This afforded North Texas a cushion throughout the game and an opportunity for the players to demonstrate their game management.
“I’m proud of the boys with such a great start with two quick goals,’ Eric Quill told 3rd Degree. “Credit to the guys, with two quick goals and that fast start to the game. It’s great to be up with a young team and credit to [Forward] Madison to continue to fight at 4-0 as they have veterans.”
North Texas has had “games-of-two-halves” highlighted by differing intensities. Despite Forward Madison’s continues attacking attempts, the players responded by attacking at the start of the second half and being quick on transitions.
Similar to 2020, North Texas SC has had a less than desirable start to their season that has been impacted by the pandemic. North Texas has indicated that there may be a change in the club’s fortune when it comes to league play.
Early in the season, much of the struggles North Texas faced involved getting all the players into the roster while building cohesion and chemistry in the team.
“Within the team, it’s starting to click,” Hernandez said of recent results. “We think we are going to start a run of games and the results are going to come our way. You see it on the field and in the locker room and the strands of chemistry between each player are starting to click.”
Since returning from the international break, North Texas had played with more cohesion and unity rather than relying on individual performances and units.
With each passing game, the club has similarly displayed consistency throughout the whole match while avoiding big momentum swings which could let their opposition back into games.
“I love the guys and there’s a great vibe in the group and they are fighters for each other,” Quill said. “If we can cut these errors out, we can score a lot of goals with this group. I think we are so close to going on a run. When you put together a new team every year, it’s going to take time. To try to get everyone with cohesion and fluidity is not easy but these guys are getting it.”
While the early results have not been positive, given the team improvements, North Texas SC appears to have a turning point in the season where they will hope to begin gaining positive results.
FC Dallas Guys
Having 4 FC Dallas players will draw attention to any North Texas roster. Having 4 “impactful” players was the difference to the success and playstyle of North Texas’ game plan.
Eddie Munjoma, Kalil ElMedkhar, and Collin Smith are no strangers to the level of play of USL Leauge One. Munjoma and El Medkhar have had great success with North Texas as both players dominate their respective positions on the left side providing attacking and defensive strength.
Freddy Vargas, having only played 15 minutes since the beginning of June for FC Dallas, played his first game with North Texas to gain competitive minutes and regain the attacking rhythm that he displayed during the FC Dallas preseason.
Vargas took up a more central role and found himself going deeper into the field to receive the ball while combining with Gibran Rayo as a “second-striker”, a tactic that Eric Quill has employed before. For Vargas, much of the expectation is to dominate at the USL League One level, which he did and provided a strong attacking presence centrally while working to get the ball and move forward as demonstrated in his involvement in the first and third goals.
“The value it brings to the team for the guys to play with Freddy [Vargas] is great,” Quill explained. “Credit to Freddy to come down and be a professional and was a factor in every goal. For the FC Dallas guys, North Texas SC is a great vehicle to get these guys played in so when their number is called, they are ready. These matches provide the guys the minutes that, when they go back, they are ready and can compete with the team.”
With North Texas hoping to start a run of results to climb up the league table, the inclusion of FC Dallas players will only be beneficial for both clubs as North Texas can take advantage of the MLS level quality while the FC Dallas players gain valuable competitive minutes.
North Texas SC has 14 points through 11 games and sits in 10th place, climbing up one position. North Texas will host the Chattanooga Red Wolves on Saturday, July 17th, at 9 PM.