North Texas Soccer Club hosts Forward Madison in USL League One Playoffs Saturday

Arturo Rodriguez
Arturo Rodriguez breaks away from a Forward Madison defender during a regular-season meeting. (Jack Wallace, North Texas SC)

At long last, the inaugural USL League One playoffs are upon us, with regular-season champions North Texas SC hosting Forward Madison FC in the fifth installment of El Plastico.

North Texas SC dominated the USL League One regular season, finishing 10 points clear of 2nd place Lansing, and managed wins against all nine USL-1 teams. Forward Madison, meanwhile, finished on an identical record to 3rd place Greenville and received the bottom slot based on goal differential.

While El Plastico may have started as a completely arbitrary and artificial rivalry stemming from Twitter banter and a scheduling quirk, it quickly became real. Madison held North Texas to just a single goal in their first encounter in April, won by the North Texans thanks to a stoppage-time penalty in a rather chippy affair. The rematch saw North Texas explode for two quick goals in the first ten minutes on route to a 3-1 victory.

Forward Madison hosted the third installment as the finale of a disastrous 4 match road stretch for North Texas. Ronaldo Damus gave North Texas an early lead, but Madison went #FullMingo, hammering North Texas 4-1. For North Texas’ penultimate regular-season match, they once again traveled to Madison, where an uncharacteristic error from Imanol Almaguer left the ball in the wrong net for the only goal of the game.

With the 2019 El Plastico split at two wins apiece, not only will the winner advance to the championship match they’ll also take the series.

Expect to see a lineup reminiscent of the late-season games, with Brecc Evans and Callum Montgomery anchoring the backline with Kevin Bonilla and Jonathan Gomez likely starters at outside back. Midfield is a bit of a toss-up, between several stars from the North Texas roster, MLS loanees, and academy call-ups; but expect to see Alfusainey Jatta as the 6 with some combo of Thomas Roberts, David Rodriguez, Almaguer, or even Dante Sealy. Up front, expect few surprises. “The Haitian Sensation” Ronaldo Damus will start if he’s back from national team duty, with Arturo Rodriguez and Richard Danso all but guaranteed starting spots on the wings.

Should North Texas win and advance to the championship game, they’ll host the winner of Lansing Ignite vs Greenville Triumph. While Lansing is the higher seed and hosting, Greenville actually had the edge in the series, winning one and drawing two. Greenville is also the only team to defeat North Texas at home in 2019, winning 4-0 on July 26. North Texas posted identical 1-1-1 records against both Lansing and Greenville but managed to score 6 goals against Lansing versus just one against Greenville.

North Texas’ semifinal against Madison takes place Saturday, October 12, at 7 p.m. in Frisco, while the semifinal between Lansing and Greenville kicks off at 6 p.m. Should North Texas win tomorrow, they’ll host the inaugural League 1 final on Saturday, October 19.

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