A strong first half by North Texas was let down by a flat second half, where errors cost them the match while the league leaders showed their quality.
Nolan Norris moved back into the midfield in the starting XI, after many weeks spent in the backline. Diego Garcia rotated in for Anthony Ramirez at RW and Tomas Pondeca continued his long string of starts in the midfield.
Just 5 minutes after the start of play, North Texas earned a penalty! High pressure on the opposing backline by Diego Garcia gave way to a great look for Hope Avayevu, who was taken out by the goalie on the edge of the box to earn the penalty.
Hope sent the goalie the wrong way and buried his penalty to put the home side up 1-0 before the 10-minute mark.
Minutes after the penalty, North Texas nearly doubled their lead after a great one-two pass between Jose Mulato and Andre Costa gave Mulato sight of goal, but the Rapids 2 goalkeeper did just enough to palm it wide and too far for the onrushing Garcia.
The visitors equalized just before the 20-minute mark in the half, as Yosuke Hanya carved through the North Texas midfield and defense to set himself up for a one-on-one with Antonio Carrera.
10 minutes after the equalizer, North Texas responded!
Hard work and a great pass from Avayevu got Mulato on the run down the left wing, who slipped his defender and smashed home his finish to restore the host’s one-goal lead.
After taking the lead, North Texas enjoyed a few good spells of possession and mostly frustrated the Colorado attack to close out the first half with a one-goal advantage.
A sub to begin the second half, with Yeicar Perlaza replacing Herbert Endeley at right back.
Colorado would tie the game in the 58th minute, as an error between Carrera and Henri Santos ended in an empty net goal for Colorado.
Colorado nearly took the lead minutes after they equalized, as Carrera got down well to deny a go-ahead goal to the visitors.
A chance to score the go-ahead goal with minutes left in regular time was scuffed, as a beautiful ball from Carl Sainte to Avayevu was well-controlled and played into the box for Mulato, who dug out a perfect cross to the feet of substitute Lautaro Taboada, who was unable to make clean contact and the ball sailed high.
A costly miss, as it would prove, as Colorado counter-attacked in the 90+2′ to score the game-winner. There was a strong shout for a foul in the build-up but the referee saw it differently.
There was some injury worry as Sainte’s defensive recovery was ended during the sprint, but such worries were soothed after the match.
The goal would give Colorado Rapids 2 the frontier division title and a top seed heading into the playoffs, as well as end North Texas’ hopes for the playoffs.
Quotes and Takeaways
Errors are costly, it happens, but they have been backbreakers for North Texas this season. In spite of it and 3 goals conceded, Antonio Carrera played well and made some excellent saves.
Jose Mulato’s first half was outstanding, the shimmy to create the space for his goal was outstanding and his goal was well taken, nearly had two or three on the night. Mulato has improved tremendously over the last month.
“This is a tough one… it really is.” Head Coach John Gall said after the match, “Unfortunately we made a few errors that turned the game.”
On the missed chance by Taboada, “At 2-2 we had a chance to score, then, of course, they get a counterattack and go and score on that… On another day that goes in, [tonight] it wasn’t meant to be.”
“The positives, we played against a team that is first in the western conference, and [we looked good]. Young players are gonna make mistakes and hopefully they’re gonna learn these lessons.”
“I think the second goal changed the momentum, it gave Colorado the energy to go forward and get the winner. At 2-1, we needed to keep our structure then at 2-2 we needed to push for three points and needed to score.”
Gall has always and continues to praise the work ethic of the players, “I think the difficult thing has been picking the team, I have been really pleased by the fight and effort these guys have been putting in.”
Nolan Norris spoke poignantly after the match, as he said “I think this summed up the story of our season.”
On his ever-changing positions in the squad, “This season has been good for me, on and off the field. Nico [Estevez] told me how I would be playing more inverted, whether in defense or in midfield… I played higher [than the 6] today. I think it develops every part of my game a little bit more. Every facet of the game is executed in the middle. If I go back to center back or left back I use that knowledge and experience.”
North Texas will finish their year against both their Texas rivals, with the 9/17 Dynamo Dos match and 9/24 Austin FC II matches concluding the season.