North Texas Soccer Club traveled to the Pacific Northwest for their first road match of the 2022 MLS Next Pro season against Tacoma Defiance on Saturday night.
After coming off a 3-1 win over Minnesota United FC 2, Pa-Modou Kah and his players aimed to continue their win streak.
Despite going down a goal, North Texas leveled the game 1-1 and won in the ensuing shootout 5-4 to come away with 2 points from their first road trip.
Only one change was made from the previous match as Lucas Bartlett made his first start, replacing Paul Amedume.
Tacoma opened the scoring off a quick 3-v-3 counterattacking ending in a headed goal by Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez in the 27th minute.
Pablo Torre and Blaine Ferri made way for Tarik Scott and Collin Smith respectively in the 66th minute.
Bernard Kamungo brought the game level from a Hope Avayevu assist in the 70th minute.
Paul Amedume replaced Chase Niece after what appeared to be an injury concern in the 76th minute.
Luis Cardoso was the final substitute after replacing Hope Avayevu in the 81st minute.
After the permitted regular time, the game finished 1-1 and North Texas SC headed to their first PK shootout of the season.
North Texas was victorious in the shootout after Derek Waldeck (scored), Blake Pope (miss), Collin Smith (scored), Luis Cardoso (scored), Bernard Kamungo (scored), and Lucas Bartlett (scored) were the respective kickers, and comes away with two points after winning the shootout 5 to 4.
Thoughts and Takeaways
Build Up Play
North Texas was the more controlling team with respect to the buildup play. As in the previous game, North Texas outpassed their opposition 259 to 180
There were two noticeable changes in North Texas’ buildup play. First, the center-back became more involved and dribbled the ball higher up the field. Meanwhile, the full-backs drifted higher up the field to combine with the midfield.
Secondly, due to the involvement of the backline during the buildup phase, North Texas frequently utilized long balls to switch the field of play and to bypass Tacoma’s lines.
“I think our buildup play was spot on,” Kah explained. “I think we recognized the spaces where we wanted to play with Hope and Bernie. I think the only thing that was missing was the goals. I think we were calm in possession and the way that we were recognizing and finding the spaces that were open for the passes was great.”
Coach Kah spoke of the importance of handling momentum swings after his team’s last game and during the week preceding this game.
“I think our intensity throughout the whole game was higher with and without the ball,” Kah told 3rd Degree. “I thought we were the dominant side. I thought that when we had the momentum we had the chances but we didn’t take them. At halftime, we talked about the things that we were doing and the response in the next half was fantastic.”
While North Texas started the game moving up the field quickly, Tacoma settled deeper in their own half and was quick to counterattack.
North Texas, having committed significant numbers up the field, found themselves having to chase Tacoma’s attack with limited players behind the ball.
The North Texas players did respond after conceding and it lead to a more even match. The urgency North Texas displayed saw the team taking riskier passes while having to defend against a quick transitioning Tacoma team.
“I think we started the match on the front foot,” Kah said of the transitions. “They get a goal of transition moment which we knew they were capable of. The biggest thing I saw today was the mentality of the boys not to give up and they understood what we were capable of. The intensity of what we played with was fantastic.”
The response and play got better for North Texas as the match wore on. They were able to temper the urgency and became more consistent in their passing.
“We all knew it was going to be a tough game for all of us so we had to come up with an intensity that would match there’s,” Kamungo said of North Texas’ response. “In the first half, it was a little slow but in the second half it got up there.”
This enabled North Texas to match the speed at which Tacoma was transitioning and regain some of the control they have early in the first half.
North Texas SC returns home to host Colorado Rapids 2 on Sunday, April 10th at 4 PM Central.