North Texas SC’s tough draw against Red Wolves

North Texas Soccer Club returned home from their first road trip to Omaha, to take on the Chattanooga Red Wolves on Saturday night. With fans braving the heat of a Texas summer night, North Texas SC came away with a 2-2 draw.

North Texas SC remains undefeated after 3 games of the 2020 season.

The Game

Eric Quill made quite a few changes for this match’s starting lineup. Carlos Avilez made his first appearance and start in the 2020 season. Brecc Evans and Pedro Alves made their start playing at center-back and right-back respectively while Derek Waldeck and Justin Che remained in the backline. Imanol Almaguer and Thomas Roberts started in the midfield which pushed David Rodriguez to the left-wing.

North Texas SC starting 11 vs Chattanooga Red Wolves

North Texas SC was more comfortable with the ball in comparison to the first two games of the season, opting for a more patient build-up playing short passes to shift Red Wolves players out of position and create space. On defense, North Texas SC tried to stay compact and limit any balls played forward.

Chattanooga Red Wolves opted to play a quicker paced game. The Red Wolves wanted to break North Texas SC’s lines and play the ball into space, catching the North Texas SC defense out of position. Chatanooga played a mid to low block when numbers were available to defend against North Texas SC’s attack.

It didn’t take long for the Red Wolves to get on the board after Josue Soto fed a chipped ball to Greg Hurst who blasted the ball into the back of the net after 3 minutes of play.

Red Wolves had to make an early substitution after Amirgy Pineda went down with what appeared to be a knee injury, bringing in Ronaldo Pineda.

Eric Quill made two half-time substitutions choosing to bring Beni Redzic and Lamar Batista in for David Rodriguez and Pedro Alves respectively. This moved Justin Che to right-back and Brecc Evans to right center-back.

It didn’t take long for Beni Redzic to make his impact on the game. Ronaldo Damus beat two defenders with pace down the right flank and played a cross on the ground to Redzic who finished the ball bring the score level in the 47th minute.

Thomas Roberts night came to an end in the 66th minute as Gibran Rayo entered the game.

79th-minute-sub Collin Smith – who came on for Alex Bruce, shifting Damus to the 9 – assisted on the goal that Beni Redzic scored to give North Texas SC the lead. Smith made a sharp cross from deep on the right side of the field

Unfortunately, the Red Wolves wouldn’t go quietly and quickly scored virtually from the kickoff with Greg Hurst assisting the Mark Hernandez equalizer.

Gibran Rayo would get his second yellow card and was sent off marking a disappointing end to the game for North Texas SC.

Thoughts & Takeaways

Putting It Together

Some North Texas SC regulars returned to the starting eleven and their inclusion made an impact in the game. Captian Brecc Evans returned to the backline and his experience and leadership were evident for a remodeled North Texas SC defense. Evans was in constant communication with his backline which helped settle down some of the disorganizations we saw in previous games.

With three games down in the season, it’s expected that the newer players will become more familiar with the style that Eric Quill wants to play with and their teammates on the field. While there wasn’t an overwhelming or clear change in the connection between players, one could tell that the ideas are starting to click. Simple passes, a quick 1-2 play, and overlapping runs happened with more frequency and, more importantly, with confidence. The players knew where to expect their next pass and when the next play would occur.

Midfield Change

Thomas Roberts and Imanol Almaguer were some of North Texas SC’s best players last season. Thomas Roberts was clearly the creative force and focal point of the midfield trio and quickly made his impact in the game. For his first competitive game, Roberts grew as the game progressed (and as he got fouled).

Imanol Almaguer was present all over the midfield, making his presence known and being the “glue” of the team. Imanol’s was most impactful as a link between the defense and offense and operated as an option to lay the ball off to when an attacking player was under pressure.

There was a sense of composure with the inclusion of Roberts and Imanol, who with their experience, did control the ball and center of the field in a better fashion in comparison to North Texas SC’s last two games. The midfield trio is going to be a project for Eric Quill throughout the season. The club is intended to develop players but Quill also uses results and on-field performances as teaching moments for his players.

“The second half, I thought the midfield rotation was better and space,” Eric Quill said of the midfield. “We found guys sitting in behind lines instead of in front of them and we got some really good opportunities. We just got to be more clinical in the final third and in those areas.”

The quality and composure of the field is going to impact the success and quality of the attack along with defense during the 2020 season. With limited movement between FC Dallas and North Texas SC expected this year – Because of Covid-19 – one could expect a younger and more inexperienced midfield for North Texas SC in comparison to the likes of Brandon Servania and Edwin Cerrillo often seen last season.

Solving Problems

As the season progresses, the players will become more comfortable in their playstyle and solidify their identity as a team that wants to build from the back and be a consistent competitor on the field. Each player is going to have to overcome their own battles on the field: making a play in tight space, how to overcome a high press, shaking off a defender.

“We didn’t really have a preseason,” Eric Quill said after the match. “We didn’t come back to a bunch of games where we could iron these kinds of these out. We had some players play for the first time this season that have never played in the league before. We have to evaluate a lot of things that we are going to go back as a staff to figure out how to be better. Without a four-to-five game preseason schedule this is what you are going to get…The first few games out of the shoot are just not sharp. We have to find our sharpness faster than anyone else.”

The North Texas SC team of 2019 started the season dominant but quickly faced challenges in closing out games, how to breakdown a mid to low block, and building out from a press. All of these problems arose during this game and for a young team, these are excellent learning moments for the developing team.

“I think one of our issues was in the build play,” captain Brecc Evans commented about a possible issue. “The center-backs were having too many touches, myself included could’ve played maybe fewer touches and release it quicker to get our midfielders in a much more dangerous [position] on the ball. Like coach said, it was two lapses of error.”

Having the mental fortitude to concentrate the full 90 minutes is going to be key for the North Texas SC to find success this season and, as shown by the second goal, a small mental lapse can quickly change the course of the game.

North Texas SC will stay in Texas and welcome New England Revolution II at Globe Life Park at 8:00 PM.

Ronaldo Damus shows off his service to goal scorer Beni Redzic against Chattanooga Red Wolves (Photo courtesy: North Texas SC)

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