North Texas Soccer Club played their first preseason game against El Paso Locomotive FC on a cool afternoon at Toyota Soccer Center. North Texas SC came away with a 1-0 win that displayed many positives for a young team, especially so early on their preseason.
There were plenty of new faces that made an appearance for North Texas SC and unfortunately, not all their names were gathered making it hard to give credit. North Texas SC started their game with a lineup that consisted of veteran players of the club.
Pedro Alves, aka “Cuadrado” started the game but didn’t stay long after a collision in the air with an El Paso player forced him out. Nothing is confirmed as to that status on Alves, but Eric Quill didn’t think the injury was extreme at the moment. The club will wait for a medical review.
Much of the play was directed on the right side, which contained much of North Texas SC regulars, and much of the attacking success came from the left-side. Oscar Romero, Alex Bruce, and Anders Engebretsen all worked together to be a threatening front-line and they created two great goal-scoring opportunities. Despite North Texas SC having control over the first half, both teams would come up scoreless after the first forty-five minutes.
In the second half, new faces appeared for North Texas SC. Notable changes included Imanol Almaguer coming off, Anders Engebretsen moved to right-back, Gibran Rayo moved up to right-wing, and new goalkeeper Luis Zamudio took over between the posts. The North Texas SC players continued to control the match throughout the second half. The deadlock was eventually broken after trialist, Mauricio Fazio (Richland College) scored the lone goal of the game.
El Paso Locomotive didn’t let allow themselves to be overrun by the young North Texas SC team and did well to provide a competitive game despite losing 1-0.
Thoughts & Takeaways
Carlos Avilez had little to do in the match, but he was very vocal with his backline and helped in the build-up play. Avilez’s increased vocal presence is an improvement from last season which can help distinguish himself from his competition. Similarly, Luis Zamudio wasn’t called into much action during his half of play and was vocal with his backline though not to the extent of Avilez.
Pedro Alves didn’t get much playtime, but the short defender did well to get up the field and didn’t shy away from putting in a physical challenge. While his substitute’s name is unknown, his replacement similarly did well to get up the field and was extremely physical.
Trialist Nicolas Scargle held his own and showed that there is room for growth. While he was caught out of position (understandable given he is playing with an unfamiliar team) he didn’t do anything that harmed North Texas SC and had good defensive moments.
Allison dos Santos Correa, similarly, came up with good defensive plays and, as a more muscular defender, didn’t shy away from putting in a physical challenge. He does have potential and it is clear as to why he has a North Texas SC contract.
Imanol Almaguer controlled the left side of the field played with confidence. It was rare for an El Paso player to get past him, but he also combined well with Oscar Romero and midfielders Gibran Rayo and David Rodriguez.
Trialist Diego Guttierez didn’t have much time on the ball but his impact was felt when considering how El Paso moved the ball up the field. El Paso would move build from the back and move the ball through the midfield. Guttierez did well to cover any attacking El Paso player leaving the only option for El Paso to play the out wide. Coincidence or a result of Guttierez’s position, he shielded his backline and made every effort to prevent the ball from getting past him.
David Rodriguez played with new confidence and comfort in comparison to his 2019 season. His biggest contribution throughout the match was roaming the midfield and playing passes to put his forwards in threatening positions.
Gibran Rayo had a very strong game given his 2019 performance. Like David, Rayo had plenty of confidence as he appeared to glide on the field. He read the game extremely well and already knew what his next move would be before he had received the ball. His calmness on the ball will be an asset if he continues to grow throughout the season.
Oscar Romero continued to be an attacking player as he kept El Paso’s defense on their toes during his time in the field. While he did get shaken off the ball, he did well to win the ball back and shrug off defenders while showing some skill on the ball.
Former Lansing Ignite striker Alex Bruce got to play with his new team and it was clear as to why North Texas SC acquired his services. The young player combined well with his midfielders and fellow attackers while finding space between defenders to receive the ball. While he didn’t get much time on the ball, his ability to read the game allowed him to be an effective attacker.
Ander Engebretsen displayed his versatility as he played on the wing and as a full-back. He grew into the match and by the final whistle, he was arguably the best player on the field.
“Anders was magnificent,” Coach Quill of the FC Dallas draft pick. “He can run, but with his running, he made good decisions. He was a handful when he played as a winger. He was great playing out of the back, which he doesn’t do. We asked him to do something that was not normal for him and he took it in stride and was still very effective. So, I think this kid is going to surprise a lot of people with how fast he is going to turn heads.”
One of Anders’s best moments occurred when he won the ball in the defensive third, avoided two challenges with his ball skill, dribbled upfield, and played a through ball to a winger, received the ball back and almost scored. His technical skills will be valuable to North Texas SC throughout the season.
Knowing that it was the first competitive match of North Texas SC’s preseason, there weren’t many expectations for this game. Even with it being the first game, the players didn’t just surprise fans with their control on the match but also their coaching staff.
“It’s just a great sign of what’s to come, hopefully,” Coach Quill said of his player’s ability. “I really thought our soccer was good today. I thought we had really chances and those chances came off of really good soccer movements and good passing combination. From that standpoint, I’m extremely pleased given that it’s week two.”
The build-up play out of a press was a big emphasis throughout this game. Having the ability to break a press is what allows a team to be threatening on the counterattack which is what Coach Quill and his staff faced many times last season. The tactical development is a characteristic that will be of interest throughout the season given how fluid and comfortable the players were against a USL Championship team (who similarly are in preseason).
“We’re building out of the back no matter what,” Quill said of the build-up play. “That was really, for me, the most proud I’ve been was how often we were able to [play] out when they pressed up and find the man on the other side and get going at them, [El Paso]. The more we can break presses; our philosophy comes to life that way. We have the type of players that can break presses and hurt you on transition. We want to play out and you never know what that’s going to look like by week two. I thought as the game went on, as a coach, I was more and more comfortable when they pressed us, I had full confidence that we were going to get out [of the press].”
Given how competitive the North Texas SC players were in this game, one can say that preseason is starting off as the club desired. While the result isn’t the most important factor in a preseason match, it does help that the players came away with a win. Enthusiasm and excitement should be curbed as it is only the beginning of preseason and North Texas SC still has more matches to play. The USL League One season is a long one and North Texas SC had a dip of form during the 2019 season showing that despite how any team starts, that anything can happen over the course of a season.
North Texas SC will play two friendlies this coming week on the 25th and 27th against FC Tulsa and Sporting Kansas City II respectively.