North Texas SC’s season ended much the same way it began, in winning ways at home. With a lineup consisting of many familiar faces, Eric Quill went with one of the strongest lineups he could in the absence of the bulk of the MLS loanees as Ricardo Pepi was off with the U-17 national team and Johnny Nelson, Jimmy Maurer, and Edwin Cerrillo with FC Dallas in Seattle. One particularly notable name in the lineup was FC Dallas 3rd string keeper Kyle Zobeck who got the start in goal over North Texas’ Carlos Avilez.
Greenville Triumph SC made the final by virtue of a 1-0 win on the road in Lansing, widely considered the toughest venue in League 1 to play in. Christopher Bermudez scored the lone goal in the 59th minute to send Greenville through.
From the beginning of the USL League One Final, both sides came out swinging with the full weight of the event, at times coming close to literal blows. Alfusainey Jatta was booked early for a clumsy challenge and both teams reached 15 fouls by the final whistle.
Greenville found the first opportunity in the 15th minute, with a midfield turnover leaving Greenville’s Christopher Bermudez one-on-one with Zobeck. Zobeck made the first of several major saves to hold Greenville scoreless, while North Texas continued to struggle against Greenville’s defense. Through the first half, North Texas managed just three shots and only one on target, compared to Greenville’s five with three on frame.
Following the break, both sides came out with a renewed energy, with North Texas still struggling to break through Greenville’s lines and Greenville without an answer for Zobeck. In the 60th minute, a string of passes aiming for Ronaldo Damus found the league’s leading scorer tangled up in Greenville’s backline. As a result, the ball came loose to Arturo Rodriguez. Arturo’s shot rolled through the backline and beat a diving Dallas Jaye for the Final’s MVP’s 9th goal of the season.
Greenville hammered Zobeck consistently for the final 30 minutes, putting four shots on target and requiring heroics from the goalkeeper to preserve the lead. Zobeck performed amazingly, despite starting just five games in 2019, standing on his head to keep Greenville at bay.
Greenville fought for an equalizer into the dying moments, with the numerous fouls on both sides leading to five minutes added at the end. North Texas dropped back to choke Greenville’s offense deep into stoppage time employing a third center back, waiting anxiously for the final whistle.
Come full time, the North Texas players rushed their supporters in the beer garden to celebrate their championship win, becoming the first champions of USL-1 and the first Division 3 champions in the United States since New York Red Bull 2 in 2016.
Come 2020, North Texas will be joined by at least three more teams in League 1 as they fight to defend their title from their new home in Globe Life Park.